In the wake of the terrorist activity in Paris that killed close to 150 people in eight separate attacks, the Investigation Widens to Germany and Belgium.
Three Key Developments
● Belgium charges two men in connection with the Paris attacks
● Germany arrests five people in a town close to the Belgian border
● France has authorized the distribution of an antidote for nerve gas
The investigation into last week’s deadly attacks in Paris widened on Tuesday, as Belgium charged two men with terror offenses and Germany arrested five people over the Isis plot.
The arrests in Germany and reports the Belgian police is investigating whether the men charged in Belgium provided the bombs used in the suicide attacks indicate that the conspiracy may have been wider than previously thought — and that more than one attacker may still be on the loose.
It also emerged that France has authorized the distribution of an antidote for nerve gas — a further sign of a sign of concern about the risk of more Isis attacks.
Meanwhile, evidence has grown that accomplices aided Salah Abdeslam, the 26-year-old French national at the heart of an international manhunt following the killings, to flee France after the attacks.
Prosecutors in Belgium on Tuesday charged two Belgian men — Hamza Attou and Mohammed Amri — with participation in a terrorist enterprise in connection with the Paris attacks. Belgian media reported that both men, who were arrested in a raid in the rundown Brussels district of Molenbeek on Saturday, are suspected of helping to assemble explosives for suicide vests used in the attacks.
French authorities said Mr Abdeslam had booked rooms in a hotel in the Alfortville suburb of Paris to serve as a safe house for the group ahead of the attacks, together with a flat in the Bobigny area.
When Isis claimed responsibility for the assaults, it mentioned a team of eight jihadis. But there are indications the actual number may be higher.
German police said they had detained five suspects in Alsdorf, a small town near the border with Belgium and the Netherlands, in an operation the DPA news agency said was linked to the Paris attack.
At least nine people are currently being held by French authorities, which has also stepped up air strikes against Isis in Syria.
Could the Attacks Have Been Prevented?
The Financial Times asks Could Attacks Have Been Prevented?
While not every terrorist plot can be thwarted, authorities missed a huge number of warning signs. Coupled with inane acceptance of Syrian refugees, the EU virtually invited terrorist activity.
Nine Warning Signs, Security Issues Missed or Ignored
- Mastermind Abdelhamid Abaaoud: French authorities have named Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian of Moroccan origin, as the potential “mastermind” behind the attacks. Mr Abaaoud, 27, fought with Isis in 2013 in Syria, where he took part in atrocities before returning to Belgium in 2014. He had been in contact with Mehdi Nemmouche, a Franco-Algerian jihadi who shot four people dead at the Brussels Jewish museum in May that year.
- High Risk Profiles: Five of the eight Paris suspects had fought for Isis in Syria. Questions will be asked about why they were not monitored closely given the known risks that such a profile entails. (Current academic research suggests at least one in five returnees will attempt an act of political violence.) Most of the plotters had long been known to intelligence agencies as figures in European Islamist circles.
- Associations: Suicide bomber Omar Ismael Mostefai, 29, had a French police “S file” indicating his status as a potentially dangerous radical since 2010. The sheer number of such peripheral figures that European counterterror officials must track is daunting, but the Paris plot required eight of them to be in regular communication and to have trained together. Even if their profiles did not trigger intensive surveillance individually, their regular association should have done. Many will ask about the gaps in the system that prevented that.
- Rapid Radicalization: Often the speed of the shift in an individual’s religious beliefs is an indication of its danger. At least two of those involved in the Paris plot changed their behaviour and lifestyle significantly in the months that preceded the attack. The Abdeslam brothers, Ibrahim and Salah, were drinkers and gamblers until a year ago, when they both suddenly stopped. Bilal Hadfi, the “baby-faced jihadi”, also turned to hardline political Islam in the last year. In July, he wrote on his public Facebook account, which is littered with pictures of automatic weapons: “Hit the pigs in their communities so they no longer feel safe even in their dreams.” He had already traveled and returned from Syria. His social media output alone should have flagged him to Belgian authorities.
- Molenbeek Warning Signs: The Brussels district has become notorious as a hub of jihadism in the heart of Europe. It has been linked to four terror attacks that were not picked up by intelligence agencies in the past 18 months alone. Nemmouche, who took part in the Brussels shootings of May 2014, and Amedy Coulibaly, the third attacker in the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January, acquired their weapons in Molenbeek. Ayoub el-Khazzani, 26, the Moroccan-born Spaniard who came within a whisker of committing mass murder aboard a train in August this year, was a regular worshipper at an unofficial, radical mosque in the district.
- Turkish Connection: According to Turkish government officials, Ankara warned France three times about the risks posed by the Bataclan bomber Mostefai, who was known to French authorities as a radical. In October 2014, the Turks said he was a “terror suspect” after linking him to Isis attack planning cells in Syria. In December last year they sent another warning about him to the French. In June this year they reiterated it. The French did not request additional details from the Turks until after the attack.
- Passport Issues: The identity of the third Stade de France suicide bomber remains a mystery. A Syrian passport in the name of Ahmad al Mohammad that was found near his remains is almost certainly a fake. Most likely he was known to authorities as a foreign fighter with Isis in Syria and had used the false documentation to sneak back into France. Sami Amimour, the gunman at the Bataclan, was a wanted suspect in France. He had been under judicial supervision since 2012 after he tried to travel to Yemen to fight with al-Qaeda. An international arrest warrant was issued in 2013 after he absconded and went to fight for Isis in Syria. Somehow, however, Amimour returned to Paris — according to friends several weeks ago — without raising concerns among security officials.
- German Arms Cache: On November 5, a week before the attack, a 51-year-old Montenegrin man was stopped in his car in a routine check by police in Bavaria. His vehicle was laden with grenades, automatic weapons, dynamite and ammunition. His GPS was set for an address in Paris. German and French authorities are investigating a potential link to the Paris cell, but regardless of what they can establish, the discovery of such a large consignment and information about the likely destination should have been a cause for heightened concern.
- Sourcing Explosives: Making large quantities of explosives is not an easy task. It is yet to be determined exactly what the attackers used to manufacture the suicide belts they used at the Bataclan and Stade de France. However, it is likely that they contained TATP, a highly unstable peroxide-based explosive used in the second, abortive London Tube bombing attempt in 2005, or a nitrogen-based compound. In some countries there are safeguards in place that stop sufficient quantities of key chemicals being sold at any one time, or that require shops to report purchases to security authorities. Where the attackers sourced their chemicals and why the sales were not flagged up will be a key question for authorities to answer.
Mish Questions Regarding Nine Failures
- Mastermind Abdelhamid Abaaoud: Why wasn’t Abaaoud arrested in 2014 when he returned to Belgium? Why isn’t going to Syria and taking part in ISIS atrocities a war crime in and of itself?
- High Risk Profiles: Why wasn’t a group of known radicals monitored more closely?
- Associations: Same question as above: Why wasn’t a group of known radicals monitored more closely?
- Rapid Radicalization: Why isn’t inciting terrorism a crime in and of itself? Is it OK to post pictures of automatic weapons on Facebook with the message “Hit the pigs in their communities so they no longer feel safe even in their dreams”?
- Molenbeek Warning Signs: What the hell are intelligence agencies doing if they miss four terrorist attacks all hatched in the same district?
- Turkish Connection: What possible excuse can there be to not heed direct warnings regarding a known terrorist? This person should not have been allowed in the EU at all.
- Passport Issues: Why cannot the EU detect fake passports? Why is the EU letting in economic refugees in the first place? ZeroHedge commented on the “the idiocy of anyone actually believing a suicide bomber would have brought their actual passport to what they knew would be their last act on earth“. For details, please see ISIS Claims “Only Beginning of Storm”; Poland Backs Out of Refugee Agreement. I suggest ZH blew it and the fake passport was left on purpose, precisely to show terrorists entered the EU on such passports. Indeed, Fingerprints Confirm this Terrorist Entered via Greece in October, likely on a fake passport. The pictures match.
- German Arms Cache: A vehicle bound for France, from Germany, laden with grenades, automatic weapons, dynamite and ammunition, was not properly followed up on. Why?
- Sourcing Explosives: The munitions have not been traced back to the source so it is not yet known if there is a failure to report. But why aren’t safeguards the same throughout the EU?
This was an all-around pathetic effort in the face of actual ISIS threats to carry out such attacks.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock