Two Weeks in the New Normal

Mourad Hamyd in detention in Sofia (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP)

I’ve been away for a while, so I’m catching up with recent news stories on events in Europe.  After the recent spate of attacks, things have simmered at a lower level in the past couple weeks, but there is still plenty in which to delve, even if one limits himself to France, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

In France, a couple of individuals have had their citizenship stripped and been deported to their home countries.  On successive days the week before last, Malian Moussa Keita and Algerian Abdelkrim Mostefai were expelled for their activities with respect to jihadist networks.  The same day as Mostefai was being deported, French authorities picked up an Afghan refugee in the 18th arrondissement of Paris suspected of being involved in terror activities but released him the next day for lack of evidence.

On August 8, a 16-year-old French girl was arrested in Melun, near Paris, and charged with “criminal association in relation to a terrorist enterprise.”  The young girl living in the HLM des Jardies on the Square Auguste-Rodin in Mée-sur-Seine was highly radicalized but previously unknown to authorities.  She was functioning as a group administrator within the application Telegram.  I have not found any specific information about the group, but one can only assume what sort of group it is.  Another young male was arrested not far away in the rue Marc-Antoine Charpentier.  He is known to authorities but for drug offenses.  No more information has been given regarding the connection between the two arrests, if any.

The Netherlands extradited Anis Bahri to France.  Bahri was arrested on March 27 in Rotterdam in relation to the plotting centered about Reda Kriket.  A search of Bahri’s residence in Rotterdam revealed 45kg of 7.62mm ammunition.

Yet there are two other stories that I would like to spend most of this post discussing that are continuations of larger narratives.

Oussama Atar

As you, my readers, are probably aware, I’ve discussed the familial “supercell” revolving about the El Bakraouis, the Atars, and the Benhattals.  This story continues to develop as it becomes ever clearer how dangerous European officials consider the at-large Oussama Atar.  Questions are now being asked as to why Belgian politicians expended effort in retrieving him from Iraq in 2012, whether he was even suffering the conditions his supporters claimed, and why so little effort was made to keep an eye on him once he returned.

Belgian law enforcement executed a series of 8 raids on the night of August 11-12, six in Laeken, one in Anderlecht and one in Evere.  The target, Oussama Atar, was not discovered at any of the sites, but three individuals were taken into custody—Atar’s mother, Malika Benhattal, his sister, Asma, and another man identified only as Wassime A.  All three were released the following day.  This comes on the heels of reports in June that French police had received a warning that Atar was making his way back to Western Europe via Albania.

Brussels MP Alain Destexhe is now demanding 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 in 2012.  He is suggesting that the entire effort was a manipulation and the medical reasons given at the time an exaggeration, at the very least.

The other story hearkens back to the attack on Charlie Hebdo by the brothers Kouachi.  At the time of attacks, authorities believed there to be third individual involved, a get-away driver whose name they believed the brothers to have said—“Mourad”.  Soon authorities were looking for the brother-in-law of Cherif Kouachi, Mourad Hamyd.  Mourad’s (b. 7/8/1996) sister met Kouachi in 2007 when introduced to him by a friend in their hometown of Charleville-Mézières.  The two moved into her apartment in Genneviliers, where she continued to work in child care while he found work as a fishmonger.

Mourad presented himself to authorities once his name appeared in the media, and he was quickly cleared of any wrong-doing by eyewitnesses to his presence in school during the attacks.  Nevertheless, news reports how say that even if he was not involved in the Charlie Hebdo attack, authorities already possessed evidence of his progressing radicalization.  He was identified in November 2014 as a co-manager with an individual in Iraq of Al-Haqq Media.  This page “served as a link of communication and financial support” to many members sentenced and imprisoned from the radical Islamic group Forsane Alizza, dissolved in 2012.  He also had an account on the site Ansar-Ghuraba that put him in touch with other radical individuals.

All of this has come to light because Hamyd has been arrested on suspicion of attempting to enter Syria to join terrorists there.  He arrived in Bulgaria on July 26 from Serbia and Hungary, and attempted to go to Syria two days later.  He was turned around and placed under arrest by the Bulgarians.  He requested extradition to France, which was granted today, and he is expected to be sent back sometime in the next week.  According to reports, the international arrest warrant was the result of his family coming forward to tell French authorities of his disappearance.  Yet, this seems like an odd turn of events in light of the fact that I’ve read news stories in which all four of his sisters are described as moving within Islamist circles.

Just three countries, nothing spectacular, but always a steady stream.  Merely two weeks in a long war.  Hope you have the stamina to face it, because it’s not going away.


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