Ouassini Cherifi: King of the “Hugo Boss Pants Fallen Off the Truck” and Prince of the Fake Passport

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Ouassini Cherifi at his 2011 trial (AFP)

Cherifi is an important name from the early-to mid-2000s in the European terrorism scene.  I decided to write about him not because of recent revelations, but because a number of my previous articles have touched upon him.  I think his story, what there is of it to tell, deserves a fuller treatment, because he cuts across groups and plots, and some from those days continue to appear in today’s conspiracies.  Another reason has become apparent in the course of researching and writing it which I will touch upon in the conclusion. Continue reading

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The Migrant Train to “The 15:17 To Paris”

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Khazzani Captured (Photo by Paris Match via Getty Images)

When I wrote my article bemoaning the lack of information and progress regarding the case of Ayoub el-Khazzani on August 20, 2016, I thought I had done an exhaustive search of the available information on him.  I think now that was largely true, but unfortunately, I missed something key.  It’s been a long time since I published anything, and in light of the February release of Eastwood’s new movie, I’d like to take the opportunity of my return to go over what I missed and bring you up to speed on the handful of developments that have taken place.

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Meshal, Beantown and the London Boys

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Amir Meshal

In my last article I said that the story of Amir Meshal deserved its own article, and I thought I might do that here.  But as Burns once wrote, “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an ‘men, / Gang aft agley.”  Meshal’s ordeal in Africa will matter here, but in some senses it will serve as the backdrop of a much different facet of the jihad story, one fairly well known but surprising in its relationship.  With respect to Meshal, it may simply be a series of unfortunate coincidences, but if it isn’t then it may say a great deal about him and the danger he potentially represents.  To be clear, much of the detail surrounding his experience there is drawn from the court filing in the Higgenbotham case, so it represents Meshal’s point of view.  What the government contends with respect to Meshal’s activities can’t be probed directly.

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US v. Rahman, et al: Who Is Unindicted Co-Conspirator Khaled Ibrahim?

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Codefendants at their arraignment on Aug. 26, 1993 (Ruth Pollack/AFP/Getty Images)

Omar Ahmed Ali Abdel Rahman, the “Blind Sheikh”, passed away at the age of 78 in a North Carolina prison hospital on February 18, 2017.  For such an important character in the modern jihadist movement, the event passed with little fanfare—a few stories and no protests or celebrations to my knowledge.  Yet, his story here in the US deserves more attention because he and his associates were at the epicenter of the burgeoning confrontation between the United States and some of its erstwhile allies in Afghanistan.  Continue reading

Missed Opportunities—Real and Imagined

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I was excited this morning to see a new article from CNN about Oussama Atar.  For those of you who have followed my blog, you know I have written about him a number of times (5 to be precise).  I initially stumbled upon him while trying to unearth more about the background of the El Bakraoui brothers, discovering his relationship to them, the Benhattals, and Yasin Atar.  My findings were confirmed by the Belgian press the following month.  I came back to his story briefly with the arrest of Moustapha and Jawad Benhattal last June.  August brought forth the stunning development of a series of unsuccessful raids in Laeken, Anderlecht, and Evere aimed at capturing Atar.  Meanwhile Belgian MP Alain Destexhe demanded an investigation into the role of Amnesty International and the deputies Zoe Genot (Ecolo), Jamal Ikazban (PS) and Ahmed El Khannouss (CDH) in the release of Atar from an Iraqi prison in 2012.  The last time I mentioned the Atars was in connection to a neighbor of their aunt Khadouj, Jamal Alkhomaili, who was an old gang-mate of Moustapha Benhattal and an associate of the recently arrested Farid Kharkhach, a supplier of false documents from the Saint-Gilles “factory” to the El Bakraouis. Continue reading

Concrete But Shaky

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On Saturday German police sealed off the Limbecker Platz shopping center in Essen, one of the largest in the country, on the strength of a highly specific threat (a “konkrete Gefahr” in their words) consisting of a 3-man suicide attack team using backpack bombs at 4:30.  The place was cleared out and surrounded by heavily armed men; hundreds of officers were involved in the operation. Continue reading

Violence Begets Violence

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Residence des Bois du Temple in Clichy-sous-Bois

Sometimes a story that looks like it’s about to explode (no pun intended) just sort of fizzles out.  That’s what happened recently with the arrest of some family members in Clichy-sous-Bois on February 28 and their subsequent indictment and imprisonment for criminal association in relation to a terrorist enterprise.  The story broke on March 1 some details spilled out over the next few days before going totally quiet after March 6.

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The Fifth Man (oder der V-Mann)

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My mini-foray into the old Salafist scene in Ulm, Germany, based on the Leicester angle of the recent arrest of the Belkaid brothers got me very interested in the old Sauerland Cell.  For my readers who are thoroughly familiar with this group, I beg your patience as I relate the details to those who aren’t so familiar. Continue reading

For German Salafists, Leicester Is Open For Business

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Mohamed Belkaid

The German press announced a series of raids on Wednesday, February 8, aimed at two Algerian brothers, ages 32 and 39.  These brothers are accused of funneling money and material to Jabhat al-Nusrah and its variant organizations for years through the non-profit organization Medizin mit Herz, which sits in Hennef by Bonn.  Authorities have been aware of the group for some time and keep it under observation due to its known ties to the local Salafist scene. Continue reading

The “Sapling” Has A Different Root

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Murder of Aurelie Chatelain: reconstruction in Villejuif with Ghlam

A friend recently sent me an article by Matthieu Suc from March 23, 2016, that I had somehow missed.  Entitled “The terrorist networks of the Islamic state (2/3): the chain of command leading to the attacks,” it details the background stories of a few of the major figures involved in organizing attacks in France and Belgium.  One of them, the least well known by far of the group, is related to the fifth article I ever wrote for my blog.  His name is Abdelnacer Benyoucef. Continue reading