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

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 Young and the Restless

German special police forces escort a Syrian suspected of being members of Islamic State in Karlsruhe
German special police forces escort a Syrian suspected of being members of Islamic State outside the building of the German Federal Supreme Court (Bundesgerichtshof) in Karlsruhe, Germany September 13, 2016. Police raided asylum-seekers homes in northern Germany today , arresting three Syrians suspected of being members of Islamic State and awaiting instructions from them to take part in terror attacks. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski

Cells, plots, and threats of violence from unstable teens and twenty-somethings continue to issue forth on a near-daily basis in the highways and byways of Western Europe.  Here are three vignettes of the “new normal” from just this week. Continue reading

Still in the Game

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Melouk, Kouachi, Beghal, and Laidouni hitting the soccer field in Cantal, France, on 4/4/2011

In my last post, I mentioned that I had decided to take one individual from an old plot—in this case, Slimane Khalfaoui from the 2000 Strasbourg Cathedral/Christmas Market plot—and research what had become of him.  I ended up going off on a tangent and looking at Rabah Boukaouma, a conspirator most recently with respect to the Sid Ahmed Ghlam affair. Continue reading

A Year After the Thalys Attack And Still No Answers on Ayoub El Khazzani

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I was in the bookstore the other day and noticed a new book on the shelves of the Current Affairs section titled, “The 15:17 to Paris: The True Story of a Terrorist, a Train, and Three American Heroes” by Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos, Spencer Stone, and Jeffrey E. Stern.  I pulled it off with interest because I had recently been doing my own research on Ayoub El Khazzani, the perpetrator of the attack and hoped to pick up some new information.  Sadly, there didn’t seem to be anything new in the book on that front, but it’s probably a good a time as any to lay out to you what I have found. Continue reading

Two Weeks in the New Normal

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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. Continue reading

New Arrests in Belgium–And I Think They Are Significant

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© JC Guillaume

Friday and Saturday have brought new arrests and charges in Belgium, one definitely connected to the March 22nd attacks.  Youssef E.A. (b. August 4, 1985) was arrested on Friday and had the book thrown at him: participation in the activities of a terrorist group, murder in a terrorist context and assassination attempts in a terrorist context, as author, co-author or accomplice.  Nothing further was given regarding his identity or the particulars of the activities of which he is accused. Continue reading

Updates From Around Belgium

The Jumet Case: More Identities and Linkages to France

On Tuesday, Belgian newspaper La Dernière Heure (DH) reported interesting new information about the case of jihadist cell emanating out of Jumet/Charleroi.  When I wrote on the topic a month ago, only partial identities had been released, but I was able to work out a couple of them.  One of those was confirmed in this report, which leads me to believe I was correct about both of them.  Unfortunately, the DH article is a subscription-only item, so I have only the opening blurb to work from.  Nevertheless, it gives me enough to advance the story a little. Continue reading

A Good Nose For Details

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Here are a couple of tidbits that show we are on the right track here at Hindsight is 20/20.

Oussama Atar Is the Cousin of the El Bakraoui Brothers

My speculations back in April turned out to be correct.  La Capitale ran a story under the headline, “Oussama Atar, mentor of the El Bakraoui brothers, was in prison in Iraq with the current leader of Daesh.”  In it they detail that police searched the residence of Oussama Atar the day after the Brussels bombings, which was located at rue du Busselenberg 64 in Anderlecht.  No arrests were made, and apparently Atar was not present at the time. Continue reading