Sunday, June 07, 2015

07-Jun-15: In France, arrests in wake of an intended Islamist terror assault on a Paris church

French television coverage, April 28, 2015 [Image Source]
French police, according to an Associated Press report just posted, arrested two men at about dawn this morning (Sunday) in their suburban Paris homes.

The men are accused of involvement in a terror attack that was to be launched in April on a church in Villejuif ("Jew Town"), south of Paris. A student, Sid Ahmed Ghlam, an Algerian educated in French schools and universities, had already been arrested on April 26, 2015 in connection with that intended attack after shooting himself by accident. (He had called an ambulance saying he had been shot in the leg during an armed robbery at his home, according to AFP.)

He is also charged with "the killing of a woman nearby". Ghlam is said to have gotten instructions "from someone in Syria before implementing the plot".

Barely reported outside France and all a little obscure unless, perhaps, you were going to be in that church that April day. Or knew some of the actual or intended victims. That's how it is with terror.

There had been reports back in April [in The Guardian, for instance] that three other men had been arrested then on suspicion of being accomplices with Ghlam in the terror attack - were today's arrestees in that trio?:
A search of Ghlam’s home turned up three Kalashnikov assault rifles as well as phones and computers that indicated he had been in contact with someone possibly located in Syria, who urged the suspect to target a church, according to the prosecutor. Police also found Arabic-language material that mentioned al-Qaida and the Islamic State, but so far there is no evidence he had direct ties to any organised groups. [The Guardian, April 26, 2015]
Aurelie Chatelain, murdered and burned because a terror-minded
thug thought (before accidentally shooting himself) that
she was an intelligence officer [Image Source]
The parish priest is quoted saying there would have been "carnage" because the church attracts 300 worshippers each Sunday

The woman said to have been killed by Ghlam is named Aurelie Chatelain, a fitness instructor from Caudry, near Valenciennes, aged 32 and the young mother of a five year old daughter, Juliette. She happened to be sitting in a car on the street working at her laptop. This report suggests Ghlam murdered her because whatever he thought she was doing made her appear to him to be an intelligence officer. (The New York Times speculated that the killer might merely have wanted to steal the vehicle,) Le Figaro says her body, riddled with bullets, was found inside her car which had been set ablaze. Three thousand people attended her funeral.

About the principal suspect in this terror case, Ghlam, what's being said and what was known and not known are disturbing in about equal measures:

According to his sister, the accused man
was not an extremist. "My brother did not change. He was not radicalised. I am shocked by all that, we do not believe it." [AFP, April 23, 2015]
Surely true. But there's some background she may have forgotten:
"[I]ntelligence services had first summoned Mr. Ghlam in the spring of 2014 — after he expressed a desire on Facebook to go to Syria, according to reports in the French media — but found nothing suspicious. A second round of checks was just as inconclusive early this year, after Mr. Ghlam returned to France from a trip to Turkey. Éric Denécé, director of the French Center for Research on Intelligence, insisted that “there were no flaws in intelligence gathering, because you cannot keep every single person under surveillance all the time — we don’t have the means to do so.” “This attack was thwarted by accident,” he said. “But intelligence gathering is not an exact science, and chance plays a role...”  [T]he prosecutor described Mr. Ghlam as a single, childless Algerian citizen who came to France with his mother in 2001 to join his father... He went back to Algeria in 2003, finished high school and returned to France to study computer science... Ghlam, who lived in a small apartment in a student-housing complex, did little else to attract attention and showed no clear signs of radicalization... [His] sister, told the newspaper Le Parisien that her brother had not presented any outward signs of being a radical Muslim. “Sid Ahmed doesn’t have a beard, he doesn’t wear the djellaba, he prays five times a day, that’s it,” she said, adding that her brother gave Arabic language classes at a local mosque. Ms. Ghlam told the BFM TV news channel that her brother had expressed no sympathy for terrorist groups abroad such as the Islamic State. “He would tell us: That isn’t Islam; Islam isn’t fighting with blood, it isn’t killing people,” she said... ["Piecing Together a Deadly Encounter in Paris", NY Times, April 27, 2015]
Since it's self-evidently true that not every suspect can be kept under surveillance, potential victims cannot be kept safe, and to suggest otherwise is mere hubris. Since everyone, in the increasingly-Islamism-rich West, is a potential victim, this has implications which we all need to ponder.

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