French media: Toulouse terrorist wasn't a lone wolf

Merah made some 2,000 phone calls in 2010-2011, to countries in North Africa and the Middle East, new information shows.

August 27, 2012 02:57
1 minute read.
France2 TV video of Toulouse suspect Mohamed Merah

France 2 TV screengrab of Toulouse suspect Mohamed Merah 390. (photo credit: REUTERS/France 2 Television)

PARIS – Five months after an Islamist murdered seven people in southwest France, French media revealed over the weekend that the terrorist likely did not act alone but was probably had an Islamist/Middle East connection.

Last March, Mohamed Merah, a 23-year-old French- Algerian, killed three soldiers and four Jews (a rabbi, his two children and another girl) in three attacks in Tolouse. He also wounded five people.

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He was killed after a siege of his apartment by the French National Police’s RAID elite anti-terrorist unit, after an investigation by the DCRI, the country’s counter-espionage and counter-terrorism intelligence agency.

According to the new information, Merah made some 2,000 phone calls during a period of several months in 2010-2011, to countries in North Africa and the Middle East.

According to a secret DCRI document dating from that period, Merah normally had no cellphone, and when he had one, it was monitored by the security services. So he used, for his “professional” purposes, cellphones belonging to relatives, including his mother. All the calls were to such countries as Algeria, Israel, Afghanistan and Iraq.

A few weeks ago, French media reported that Merah had been under surveillance and identified as “of interest” by the French security services since at least 2009. He was a “privileged target” of the DCRI for his relationships with radical Islamists in Toulouse, which included his brother Abdelkader.

The DCRI documents classified as “secret-defense” were declassified and made public on August 3 by the Interior Ministry and then forwarded to the Justice Ministry. The daily newspaper Le Parisien published the essential information drawn from their 23 pages.

The report said: “The young jihadi could come back [from his frequent and long trips to the Middle East and Afghanistan where he was trained by al-Qaida] and be instructed to commit armed attacks.”

One document qualified Merah as “an individual with a heavy past of delinquency going toward radicalization” and as “a direct menace.”

“Damming and disturbing” were the newspaper’s words to describe the declassified documents, enough to put into question “the lone wolf theory” put forward at the time of the attacks by Bernard Squarcini, then boss of the DCRI.

“Why then wasn’t he arrested before committing his series of crimes,” one of the victims’ lawyers asked France 2 television.

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