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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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 “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

Laeken Arrests and the False Documents Business

A customs officer shows fake European Un
STEPHAN AGOSTINI/AFP/Getty Images

Belgian antiterrorism police carried out an operation in the late afternoon of last Tuesday in the Rue Albert in the Brussels suburb of Laeken.  A couple was arrested and charged with providing logistical support to the perpetrators of the November Paris attacks and the Brussels attacks.  The two were identified as Farid K. and Meryem E.B. in the press.  Two days later Farid’s surname was divulged as Kharkhach.  Kharkhach has been kept in detention since his arrest, but his wife has been released under strict conditions.  While she is charged with forgery and the use of forgery in writing, she does not share her husband’s additional charge of participation in the activities of a terrorist group. Continue reading

Tangents Within Tangents

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Trial of Melissa F., Mohamed-Amine B., and Abdelkader Benameur (La Derniere Heure)

So many times I find myself beginning one story only to end up at a radically different destination than the one I’d intended.  The most recent manifestation of this phenomenon started the other day when I decided to revisit the Bazarouj family and more specifically, brother Youssef.  Ayoub and his siblings provided the material for one of my earliest articles, and I always like to check up on those I’ve written about previously to see if anything new has emerged.  It turns out that Ayoub is now seeking damages for the damages caused by the multiple raids on his property after the Paris attacks. Continue reading

The Family That Moves to Raqqa Together…

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Nadir Boudouaia and others (Europe 1)

It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything.  I’ve had other things going on and very few of the subjects and stories I have been researching have any overarching theme that makes them compelling reading.  Nevertheless, some of them may be of interest to other researchers or those just generally interested in the details and personalities behind the typical vanilla reports in much of the press. Continue reading