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

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Laeken Arrests and the False Documents Business

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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

There’s No Risk to the Public in Birmingham

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Police conduct a house search on the Whitmore Road (The Sun)

British police counter-terrorism units have launched a number of pre-planned, intelligence-led operations in recent days in Birmingham and at Gatwick airport against individuals for Syria-related terrorism offenses or in connection with the events in Paris and Brussels.  Every time the public is told that there was no risk to them and that there was no information to suggest that an attack was being planned against the UK. Continue reading

Gangster Jihadism and the Brussels Bombings

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Dennis Cuspert, aka “Deso Dogg”, aka Abu Taha al-Almani

Hind Fraihi, a journalist who went undercover and wrote En immersion à Molenbeek ten years ago, described the district even then as a hotbed of Islamic extremism.  Yet the emergence of the Islamic State and the extension of its influence in Belgium has created something different.  Whereas earlier preachers and recruiters had sought to legitimize their violent ideology with carefully constructed justifications, the recruiters who aligned themselves with the Islamic State have eschewed all of this in favor of grafting a few basic religious ideas onto the existing career paths of its potential soldiers—a fusion some are calling “gangster Islam.”  This serves the needs of an organization that seeks to attack the very heart of Western Civilization by supplying it with a ready-made network of facilitators already schooled by the Underworld. Continue reading

The “Man in the White Hat” is Abrini!—Or So He Says

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Friday was a busy day for Belgian law enforcement with multiple operations resulting in the arrest of the last remaining publically-revealed fugitive from the Paris attacks, Mohamed Abrini.  In addition, a recently revealed suspect, Osama Krayem (sometimes seen as Oussama Kraiem), known until now as Naim al-Hamed, was also captured.  In all, six individuals were arrested, the others being Hervé B.M., Bilal El Makhoukhi, and two possibly unrelated individuals named Assia B. and Chaouki A.  The last two may have been swept up inadvertently for being close to the operations and acting in a manner suspicious to police.  Politico early on named another individual as Abu Amrid, but nothing further was ever reported on that, and I would take it with a grain of salt as this topic is not their bread-and-butter. Continue reading

A Flurry of Activity Around Europe

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Due to other requirements on my time, I was forced to sit back for a few days and watch as things unfolded in the aftermath of the Brussels bombings.  Thankfully, this was so, because we’ve seen raid upon raid and arrest after arrest since late last week with little clarity added to the picture since then.  All that seems to be apparent is that the situation is far more complex and worrisome than authorities have either believed or made known to the public before now. Continue reading

The Perpetrators of the Belgian Bombings and Some Burning Questions

Here are the facts as they currently stand with respect to perpetrators of Tuesday’s attacks, and they are somewhat surprising if you’ve been paying attention.  At least four people were involved—three according to CCTV footage from Zaventem airport, and one at the metro station at Maelbeek.  Authorities have confirmed the identity of one of the bombers at the airport and the one who bombed the metro station.  They are the El Bakraoui brothers who the media had briefly speculated were the two individuals who had fled the raid in Forest, which kicked off the whole chain of events with respect to Salah Abdeslam’s capture and this week’s attack. Continue reading

The Capture of Salah Abdeslam

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As John Adams once said, “Facts are stubborn things.”  In the case of the Paris attacks, the facts are stubbornly hard to come by.  In the fast-moving events of the past few days, news outlets with “sources close to the investigation” have provided us with facts that have quickly turned out to be rumors, leaving us with more questions.  Some of this can be laid at the feet of the desire to be the first to break the news, but some of it can be attributed to the Islamic State’s ability to disguise and deceive.  We know who Salah Abdeslam is.  Some of the operatives he and Abaaoud brought into Europe we don’t seem to really know anything about. Continue reading

More on the Brussels Anti-Terror Raid

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El Bakraoui Brothers

When six anti-terror investigators went yesterday to the apartment at 60 Rue du Dries, they were not expecting any resistance.  The lease had been terminated and the water and electricity had been shut off long ago.  The search was being conducted to check false identities linked to the “entourage of the 11 Belgians charged in relation to the Paris killings”. Continue reading