The al-Qaida connection in the Merah Affair

First evidence of link to bin Laden found after two years of investigations of gunman in Toulouse shooting.

By JOSEPH STRICH
March 23, 2014 01:22
2 minute read.
Toulouse

Police and firefighters at the scene of a raid to arrest a suspect in the killings at a Jewish school in Toulouse March, 2012.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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The French Islamic terrorist who killed four Jews and three soldiers two years ago in southern France was part of an al-Qaida connection, the daily paper Le Parisien revealed on Friday.

Since March 2012, the newspaper has followed closely developments in the investigation, reporting regularly on the efforts of French anti-terrorist examining magistrates who have been working on the affair. After 24 months of inquiry, they recently obtained the first evidence of Mohammed Merah’s links with one of Osama bin Laden’s lieutenants, the paper said, quoting judicial sources.

Last December, Urynbasar Munatov, a 26-year-old Kazakh arrested in Pakistan in the fall of 2012, found guilty of terrorism and sentenced to 20 years in prison, revealed during questioning that he had discussed the apprentice terrorist (Merah) with Moez Garsallaoui, a Belgian-Tunisian who was responsible for al-Qaida in Europe. Garsallaoui had talked of the presence of the French Algerian in his training camp in Pakistan, a camp called Miran Shah located in the province of Waziristan. The camp was dedicated to the training of European jihad candidates. Urnybasar himself had been there.

On December 4, 2013, following a request for help from the Paris Court of Justice, Urnybasar was taken from his cell and questioned. The French magistrates thought he might have had contact with a French apprentice jihadist they were investigating. The results were beyond expectation: the policemen in Pakistan showed a series of photos to the Kazakh, including one of the target, the apprentice they were looking for.

“Just in case,” they also included within the list a photo of Merah, “photograph number 18.”

Munatov revealed: “I saw it, Garsallaoui himself showed it to me. He told me that his name was Muhammed Mira, that he had a second first name, Yussuf.

He used to live in Waziristan, and also stayed for a while with Moez in Miran Shah.”

The terrorist explained that he discussed the “killer on a scooter [Merah]” with bin Laden’s assistant soon after the tragic events in Toulouse and Montauban. In March 2012, Merah killed three French soldiers in Montauban, before murdering four Jews in nearby Toulouse. He was then shot down by the French police special anti-terrorist unit.

According to Moez “there was a deal between him and Yussuf: If he, Merah, took action, then Moez would consider them as his own, as having been organized and executed according to his orders.”

Le Parisien added that this testimony corroborates suspicions of Merah’s presence in the terrorist training camp during 12 days in September 2011. During the assault on his apartment, just before being shot, he boasted about it.

Until now, Merah’s contacts with Garsallaoui were only presumed, since it was hard to believe that a young man without a good level of Arabic could be involved with one of bin Laden’s assistants, and also because there was no traces of relevant messages in his emails.

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