A few nights ago, I was going through some old notes, when I came across a list of names I had written down related to the Strasbourg Cathedral plot from 2000. One of the important figures from that case was a man named Slimane Khalfaoui. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2004, so I decided to see what had become of him.
One of the first articles I stumbled upon showed he didn’t complete his full sentence, because he was spotted on February 8, 2012, in Clichy-sous-Bois by a French surveillance team watching Cherif Kouachi. This was such a fascinating piece of information, I continued to read the article and was rewarded two paragraphs later when it briefly mentioned a relationship between Kouachi and a garage-owner from Mantes-La-Jolie named “Le Kabyle.” At this point I forgot all about Khalfaoui.
I recognized the name “Le Kabyle” from one of the first articles I wrote over 9 months ago about Sid Ahmed Ghlam called “The ‘Latest’ Sapling.” At the time, I only knew “Le Kabyle” as Rabah B. and never could figure out his surname. Back in 2005, he had been part of the Ouassini Cherifi gang of “Islamic robbers” who intended to fund the jihad through their fraudulent business activities centered on telephony and internet shops. Rabah had invested €20,000 in a cybercafé but ultimately escaped any prosecution related to group’s efforts.
In Ghlam’s case he had served as the focal point in obtaining weapons for the planned attacks. Rabah was to place them in a Renault Mégane that Ghlam’s “director” had told him would be at a particular location. Rabah knew the various individuals involved in the plot from his regular patronage of the crêperie in which they all worked.
So this makes “Le Kabyle” quite an interesting character. He intersects the European funding network for the jihad in the early days of the Iraq War, the burgeoning danger of the Kouachi brothers that would climax nearly three years later in the attack on Charlie Hebdo, and the failed plot of Sid Ahmed Ghlam that many believe was directed by elements of the Islamic State.
I hoped this additional piece of information might lead me to his full identity and a short time later it did. Le Monde produced an article in February 2016 giving Rabah’s full name as Rabah Boukaouma, and it is the only such article that I have found. It states that authorities observed Cherif Kouachi visiting Boukaouma’s garage on July 6, 2013, and presumed that there was more than a simple business relationship between them, given that there were plenty of such businesses much nearer to Kouachi’s home. Yet it was not until his involvement in the Ghlam affair that Boukaouma gave authorities enough to actually arrest him.
Now that I had a name, I set out to find out what I could about him, his businesses and his associates from the public domain. Boukaouma, according to business records was born July 14, 1980. I found two businesses for which he had served as director over the years.
The first was a telecom service business named “Phone Contact” at 77 Avenue de la République in Aubervilliers, a north-eastern suburb of Paris. The company’s constitution came into effect on September 18, 2003. Boukaouma’s relationship seems to go back to at least 2005 and lasts until February 4, 2011, when sole directorship moved over to his partner Nabile Djazia (b 11/12/1968). Djazia operated the company until January 17, 2014, when it was taken over by Billal Bouchebel (b. 2/27/1983). The company fits the timeframe and activities of the Cherifi gang, of which Boukaouma was allegedly a part despite the fact that he was never formally prosecuted. If Boukaouma was involved with the Cherifi gang activities then it seems reasonable to suspect that his partner Djazia was also at least aware of them, if not involved himself.
The second business Boukaouma ran was A.T.C. (Association Top Carrosserie), a garage at 13 Rue Danielle Casanova in Aubervilliers. The business began operations on September 13, 2006, and Boukaouma assumed sole directorship on June 20, 2008. It sold some of its property at the location to Casanova Auto on September 8, 2013, but continued to exist until its activities ceased altogether on November 22, 2015, shortly after the attacks in Paris. Following the sale to Casanova, the site again changed hands in 2015, being sold to R.M. Auto (director Rayanne Isli), who then passed the directorship to Mohamed Taha with the accompanying name change to MS Prestige Auto in April of this year. We can thus presume that Cherif Kouachi was surveilled doing business at A.T.C. with Boukaouma.
So that is what I have found thus far. I welcome any old news stories not readily available over the web that might shed more light on Boukaouma, Djazia, or any of the other personalities and businesses mentioned here or connected to them.