|Islamist terror suspects on trial in France had list of kosher grocery stores|
|[IsraelTimes] Forsane Alizza cell, caught in the wake of the 2012 shootings, allegedly planned attacks similar to those in in January|
Members of a radical Islamic group went on trial Monday in after French prosecutors alleged they planned terror attacks similar to those on a kosher grocery and a satirical newspaper that left 17 victims dead in January.
Mohammed Achamlane, the leader of Forsane Alizza (Knights of Pride), was among the 15 group members on trial. Two of the 15 were absent Monday, including a minor to be tried in juvenile court.
The group was dismantled amid a crackdown on shortly after a 2012 killing spree in southern by Mohammed Merah, who attacked a Jewish school and soldiers, killing seven people before being by police.
Achamlane was in the western city of Nantes. He and others are charged with criminal association with the aim of preparing terrorist acts.
A computer file marked "targets" of Forsane Alizza listed multiple kosher groceries and the magazine , scenes of the January attacks that left 20 dead, including the three .
Achamlane denounced the attacks from his jail cell in a letter to and said he had nothing to do with them, according to court documents. There are no known links between the group and the January attackers.
At the time of their arrests, Prosecutor Francois Molins said Forsane Alizza members received physical training in the parks and forests around and religious indoctrination "in order to take part in a jihad." The group preached hate and violence on their Internet site which "called for an Islamic caliphate in , the application of Sharia (law) and incited s to unite to prepare for civil war," Molins said.
A lawyer for the group, Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, said on the iTele TV station the trial "risks hurting freedom of expression" because issues concerning s can be associated with terrorism.
Achamlane told the court he had no "terrorist inspiration" and only wanted to defend s against mounting in .
The group was formed in 2010, gaining attention for organizing protests against the government's decision to ban veils in public.
It was disbanded two years later by the government, which described it as a "private militia."
After it was disbanded, the group put a message on its website demanding that French forces leave all -majority countries.
"If our demands are ignored, we will consider the government to be at war against s," the message said.
Achamlane told the court on Monday that he was only calling for the "legitimate defense" of his community, adding "I am not racist, I am not an anti-Semite."
Achamlane also tried to explain why he had released videos of himself giving inflammatory speeches with Kalashnikov rifles in the background, and using phrases such as "By all-powerful Allah, we will put scars on ."
"We wanted to make a provocative video with a wall of Kalashnikovs and my bearded head to redress the balance," he said, specifying that he felt s were "excluded" from French society.
"There is no radical or moderate Islam," he added. "There is only authentic Islam."
Each member of the group faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted. The trial is due to run until June 22 or 23.
|France Probes IS Video for Link with 2012 Killer Merahe|
|[AnNahar] French police were on Wednesday probing whether a man seen in a video released by the Mohammed Merah. group purporting to show the execution of an Arab Israeli was close to French jihadist gunman |
In the video, a youth identifying himself as 19-year-old Arab Israeli Mohammed Said Ismail Musallam is shown kneeling in front of a boy who appears to be no more than 12-years-old. A man stands at his side. The man, speaking in French, issues threats against Jews in , before the boy walks around in front of the hostage and shoots him in the forehead using a pistol.
"We are checking" the identity of the man, a police source who wished to remain anonymous told AFP.
Several experts, including journalist David Thomson who wrote a book about French jihadists, say the man is Sabri Essid, reportedly the half-brother of Merah who three soldiers in southern in 2012 before killing three students and a teacher at a Jewish school more than a week later.
Wednesday marks the third anniversary of the start of Merah's killing spree, which ended with him dying in a shootout with police.
Another source close to the case, who also wanted to remain anonymous, said there were "similarities" with Essid, adding they could not be certain.
Known to intelligence services as a key figure in the radical Islamist community in , Essid is suspected to have left for Syria last year.
Merah's sister Souad also left for Syria last spring, reportedly with family members.
Essid had already been caught in December 2006 in Syria in a house known to shelter Al-Qaeda members on their way to Iraq.
He was sent back to and was sentenced in 2009 to five years in jail, including one year suspended, in a case involving an Iraqi jihadist network.
His father had lived with Merah's mother, and Essid was close to the killer and his brother Abdelkader.
Abdelkader, who was a secret lover of Mereh as well as her mother, sister, and several of the livestock. All typical mooslim interactions. Please move along now, little to be seen here.
|Morocco Arrests 5 Would-be Jihadists|
|[AnNahar] Morocco five people Saturday in the southern city of Marrakesh on suspicion of seeking to join jihadists in Iraq and Syria and of aiding terrorist activities, the interior ministry said.|
Three of those arrested, whose identities were not given, were "preparing to join terrorist organizations in Syria and Iraq, in particular the (IS)" group, a ministry statement said.
The other two were suspected of involvement in terrorist propaganda, with one of them calling for s to be carried out in Morocco.
On Thursday, four French Islamists were arrested in Marrakesh and in Laayoune, in Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara, for links to "terrorist organizations."
And at the end of October, Morocco said it had arrested two jihadists planning to attack banks and multinational companies in the North African country and in .
It said the men had been motivated by the actions of Mohammed Merah, a French-Algerian killed by French police in March 2012 after murdering seven people, including several children, at a Jewish school.
More than 2,000 Moroccans, including people with dual citizenship, are believed to have signed on with jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq.
Worried about the possibility of those people returning and carrying out attacks at home, Morocco put in place reinforced security measures in August to counter the terror threat.
|Jihadists Held for Plotting Attacks in Morocco, France|
|[AnNahar] Morocco said Thursday it has two jihadists who were planning to attack banks and multinational companies in the North African country and in .|
An interior ministry statement said a and a Franco-Moroccan arrested on Monday had also been planning to join the jihadist group.
It said they used the Internet to urge "individual terrorist acts in Morocco and ", citing preliminary results from the investigation.
Both men had been motivated by the actions of Mohammed Merah, a French-Algerian national killed by French police in March 2012 after murdering seven people, including several children at a Jewish school.
The ministry statement said the arrested dual national had taken out several loans with French and Moroccan banks to finance their activities.
The detainees, identified only by their initials, were "involved in jihadist activism" by translating and disseminating s and video recordings of "IS terrorism", the MAP news agency said.
It added that an "extremist of Algerian origin" was also arrested on Monday in the northern city of Fez, and that he "planned to join his wife," a Moroccan who had already joined the IS.
|French Teen With Jihadi Aspirations Told To Kill Jews At Home|
|[IsraelTimes] A French teenager who wanted to join jihadists in Syria said her handlers instructed her to commit attacks on Jews in .|
The testimony of the 15-year-old girl, who was last month after her parents alerted police to her plans, appeared Thursday in Le Nouvel Observateur weekly. The magazine referred to her only as Lea, which is not her real name.
The report said that she was born to a nonreligious family and raised in southern .
A juvenile court placed her under arrest and forbade her from leaving the country after her parents read her plans on her personal computer.
The article in the weekly did not say what restrictions if any exist on her freedom of movement or other liberties.
In the interview, Lea said she communicated for months with individuals who contacted her on Facebook. None of them were named. She also met with at least two handlers who allegedly helped prepare fake documents for her ahead of her planned journey to Syria.
But at one point, one of her handlers told her she could not travel to Syria after all and would need to commit an attack against Jews on French soil.
"They told me: 'it's no use, you've got too much of a record to ever come, so now the action needs to take place in ,'" the girl told the weekly. "They started showing me videos of dead children in Paleostine, telling me about the need to act against the Jews."
According to her testimony, the girl was under pressure to commit a against Jewish targets or an attack resembling that of Mohammed Merah, the radical who murdered three children and a rabbi at a Jewish day school in in 2012.
"A woman talked to me about it for the first time. I found the place, ways to get weapons. I don't know if I would've been able to go through with it," she said.
|Brother-in-Law of Notorious French Jihadist Held after Syria Trip|
|[AnNahar] The brother-in-law of Mohammed Merah, the Al-Qaeda-inspired gunman who went on a killing spree in 2012 that shocked , was at a airport Tuesday on suspicion of having joined jihadists in Syria.|
The man -- the husband of Merah's sister Souad, who herself is believed to be in Algeria -- was detained at Orly airport near along with two other people, interior ministry sources said.
All three were arrested in Turkey at the end of August and handed over to French authorities, the sources added.
The arrests came just a day after the radical group, which controls large areas of Iraq and Syria, called on s to kill citizens of countries taking part in the U.S.-led coalition against the jihadists, which includes .
French authorities are particularly wary about nationals who have traveled to the two restive countries to wage jihad and may return to their home country to stage attacks.
Already in May, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve had warned that Souad Merah, the sister of the gunman who killed three French soldiers and four Jews -- including three children -- in March 2012 in the southwestern city of , had left and may be fighting in Syria.
Mohammed Merah himself died after being shot by police following a prolonged stand-off at the apartment block where he lived.
It later emerged that he had visited Pakistain and Afghanistan prior to his attacks and had been on the radar of French intelligence, who had gravely underestimated the threat he posed.
His sister Souad left Toulouse in May for Barcelona, from where she took a flight to Istanbul and then another plane for the Turkish city of Gaziantep, near the Syrian border.
According to a source close to the case, she is currently in Algeria after having left Syria.
Among the two others who were held Tuesday was a 27-year-old man who had already been arrested in 2007 for being part of a network that recruited candidates for jihad in Iraq, an intelligence source said.
The third was a resident in the southern city of Albi where another jihadist network was dismantled over the summer.
According to Cazeneuve, around 930 French citizens or residents, including at least 60 women, are either actively engaged in jihad in Iraq and Syria or are planning to go.
|Brussels Shooter Planned Massive Attack In Paris|
|[IsraelTimes] Mehdi Nemmouche, the man who allegedly shot up the Brussels Jewish Museum earlier this year, killing four, reportedly plotted a large attack during 's Bastille Day celebrations.|
Based on the testimony of four French s who were kidnapped by the Islamic State and held captive by Nemmouche, French daily Liberation reported Monday that the returned IS fighter planned "at least one attack in , in the heart of , which would be at least five times bigger than the attacks in ." The attack would allegedly have taken place on 's iconic Champs Elysees boulevard on July 14, the French national holiday marking the beginning of the revolution.
The March 2012 Toulouse attacks targeting Jews and soldiers in the southern French city left seven dead and five injured, and the suspected perpetrator, Mohammed Merah, killed himself after a 30-hour siege.
Nemmouche, who was extradited to Belgium over the May 24, 2014, Brussels shooting, which killed four people, was identified this weekend by a French journalist as being among his Islamic captors in Syria.
Revelations that the suspected gunman in the deadly shooting at the Jewish Museum had also served as a captor and torturer in Syria shows Europe's vulnerability to terror attacks, experts said.
Writing on the website of his former employer Le Point magazine, Nicolas Henin said the 29-year-old was his feared and violent jailer between July and December 2013.
The claim immediately set off alarm bells in Europe.
"This is the first successful terrorist act on European soil linked to Syrian networks," said terrorism expert Jean-Charles Brisard.
Hundreds of others like Nemmouche, a of Algerian descent, have returned to Europe as battle-hardened veterans with a capacity to sow terror and create havoc.
"It's a mass phenomenon which is increasingly growing," said Louis Caprioli, who headed the anti-terror wing of 's domestic intelligence agency between 1998 and 2004.
British Prime Minister has said at least 500 people from have gone to Syria and Iraq to wage jihad of whom about 250 have returned.
In , about 950 people are thought to fight or have fought in Syria, have returned or are in the process of going there.
Brisard, who puts the number of Europeans who have fought in Iraq and Syria or are still fighting there at about 3,200, says Europe is ripe for fresh terror attacks.
"The secret services know it is just a question of time," he said, a view echoed by US terrorism expert Matthew Olsen, who says the threat for Europe is "relatively immediate."
French journalist Henin, one of a group of four journalist hostages freed in April, said Nemmouche was a dreaded figure.
"When Nemmouche was not singing, he was torturing," wrote Henin in an article published on Saturday. "He was part of a small group of whose visits would terrify the 50-odd Syrian prisoners held in the cells nearby. Every night the blows would start raining down in the room, where I was also interrogated. The torture lasted all night, until dawn prayers."
Nemmouche is slated to appear on September 12 before a Brussels judge who will decide whether to extend his preventive detention.
The attack in broad daylight left an Israeli couple, a Frenchwoman and a Belgian man dead, and raised fears of more terror attacks.
Nemmouche was in the southern French city of Marseille days afterwards.
He has been sentenced seven times in , including for armed robbery, and has spent seven years in jail, where he was found proselytizing Islam.
|PM Sounds Alarm over 800 Made-in-France Jihadists|
|[AnNahar] on Tuesday increased its estimate of the number of its nationals embroiled in Syria's civil war to more than 800 and warned that they pose an unprecedented security threat.|
The warning, from Prime Minister Manuel Valls, followed the weekend arrest of Medhi Nemmouche, a French jihadist suspected of carrying out last week's Brussels Jewish Museum killings after spending a year fighting in Syria.
Valls told BFMTV that the numbers of French citizens or residents who have taken part in the fighting in Syria or were planning to do so now exceeds 800, including some 30 who have died in the conflict.
"We have never before faced a challenge of this kind," Valls said. "It is without any doubt the most serious threat we face.
"We have to ensure the surveillance of hundreds and hundreds of French or European individuals who are today fighting in Syria."
Nemmouche was in Marseille on Friday carrying weapons similar to those used in the Brussels attack and a camera containing a short film in which he appears to claim responsibility for the assassin-style shooting.
A visiting Israeli couple and a French volunteer at the museum were killed outright and another man, a museum employee, was left in a critical condition from which he has no prospect of recovery.
Nemmouche is thought to be the first veteran of the Syrian conflict to have carried out an attack of this kind in Europe.
Many terrorism experts have warned it is inevitable that there will be others as battle-hardened, traumatised and weapons-trained make their way back to and countries such as Belgium, Denmark and , which have also tracked hundreds of their citizens on the jihad trail to Syria.
Nemmouche has been compared to fellow Mohammed Merah, the Islamist gunman who shot seven people -- a rabbi, three Jewish children and three French paratroopers -- in the southern city of in March 2012.
- 'Dozens of Merahs' -
After those killings, which have been followed by a sustained rise in Jewish emigration from to Israel, Valls warned that the country could be harbouring "dozens of Merahs."
"We have arrested individuals, we have dismantled (terrorist) cells," he said. "There have been many threats against ."
Nemmouche has been under interrogation by French anti-terrorism police since his arrest, which happened purely by chance as a result of the coach he was travelling on being subjected to a random customs check on its arrival in Marseille.
Police sources have told Agence Presse that he has refused to answer questions.
He is due to appear in court in Versailles on Wednesday to be notified of a request for him to be handed over to Belgium under a European arrest warrant.
A hearing on the request scheduled for Tuesday could not take place because Nemmouche refused to leave his cell.
"It is a personal decision," his lawyer, Apolin Peziepep, told AFP. The lawyer said he did not expect Nemmouche to oppose the warrant.
State prosecutors on Tuesday filed a request for the suspect's detention to be extended beyond four days without charge. Such a move is extremely rare in and requires a judge's authorization but was not expected to raise any problem in this case.
|Belgium Probes Terrorist Link in Jewish Museum Killings|
|[An Nahar] Belgium on Monday probed a possible terrorist link in a fatal weekend shooting by a lone gunman at the Jewish Museum in Brussels that has shocked the world.|
The inquiry over the shooting, which killed three people outright and left a young man brain dead, was initially opened for murder and attempted "murder with premeditation."
On Monday the inquiry was transferred to the federal public prosecutor's office authorized to handle terrorist cases and spokeswoman Wenke Roggen said a probe had been opened into "terrorist" .
Police analysis of images from the surveillance cameras at the museum show "a man killing in cold blood ... with great determination," Roggen said.
"These facts combined with the fact that the shooting lasted less than a minute and a half leads us to think there may be a terrorist motive," she told a news conference.
Earlier, deputy public prosecutor Ine Van Wymersch said the decision to transfer the case was based on "the identity and nationality of the victims".
The victims included an Israeli couple in their 50s said to be working for the government, Miriam and Emmanuel Riva.
He was said by Belgian and Israeli news reports to have once worked for Nativ, a government agency that played a covert role in fostering Jewish immigration from the former Soviet Union.
Along with Israel's foreign intelligence agency, Mossad, and its domestic security equivalent, Shin Bet, the Nativ agency was under the authority of the prime minister's office.
All four victims of the shooting, which included a French woman who did volunteer work at the museum and the 24-year-old Belgian museum employee said to be brain dead, were hit by bullets to the face and neck.
The young Belgian was said by Jewish leaders to have died Sunday of injuries in the Saturday afternoon shooting but Van Wymersch said he was still alive but "clinically dead."
Three chilling security camera videos show the gunman, wearing a cap and sunglasses, but with his features hard to make out, walk into the museum entrance, remove a Kalashnikov-style automatic rifle from a bag and then shoot through a door before making an exit.
Van Wymersch refused to confirm or deny reports that a camera was strapped to one of the two bags he was carrying, enabling him to film the attack in the same way as did Mohammed Merah, the who several Jews in two years ago.
The Derniere Heure tabloid on Monday quoted a source close to the inquiry as saying: "We fear a new Merah."
"The priority of priorities is to find this man. He must be and stopped," said Belgian Home Affairs Minister Joelle Milquet.
|France: Toulouse Gunman's Sister May Be Fighting In Syria|
| [IsraelTimes] Souad Merah and her 4 children left , authorities say; she is said to have blessed her brother before his March 2012 shooting |
The sister of Al-Qaeda inspired gunman Mohammed Merah who killed seven people in and around two years ago, has left and could be fighting in Syria, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Friday.
French authorities lost track of 35-year-old Souad Merah in March when a school at which one of her children was studying alerted them that the pupil had failed to turn up for several days.
"There is a strong suspicion that she is in Syria," Cazeneuve told Europe1 radio.
Souad Merah, who has four children aged between nine months and 14 years, left Toulouse at the start of May for Barcelona in Spain, according to French sources investigating the case.
She was accompanied by her children.
Cazeneuve said she took a flight for Istanbul from Barcelona on May 9 and took another plane the same day for the Turkish city of Gaziantep, which is near the Syrian border.
Souad Merah had been taken into custody in April on suspicion that she blessed her brother Mohammed, 23, ahead of the killing spree in which he three French soldiers and four Jews -- three children and a rabbi -- in March 2012.
Mohammed Merah died after being shot by police following a prolonged stand-off at the apartment block where he lived.
Since then it has emerged that he had visited Pakistain and Afghanistan prior to his attacks and had been on the radar of French intelligence, who had gravely under-estimated the threat he posed.
Cazeneuve said earlier this month that 285 French citizens were currently fighting in Syria, despite a slew of measures to prevent people from travelling to the war-torn country.
There have been mounting concerns in over the number of young jihadists heading to fight in Syria, with authorities fearing they could pose a major security threat if they return home as battle-hardened veteratns.
The French government unveiled an anti-terrorism plan in April to prevent the radicalization of nationals, thwart online recruitment and make it more difficult for aspiring jihadists to leave the country for Syria.
Merah, 23 when he committed the murders, said in filmed recordings that his crimes were part of Jihad -- a holy war. He died in a shootout with police at his apartment two days after he shot three children and a rabbi at the Ohr Hatorah Jewish school in Toulouse.
In December 2013, police interrogated Souad Merah in after she was filmed saying she was proud of her younger brother Mohammed "for how he fought till the end." Filmed without her knowledge, she added: "The Jews are all about massacring the s. I detest them. I think well of bin Laden. I told that to the cops. I am proud of my brother, proud, proud, proud." She later issued a statement saying she condemned his actions.
|Pakistan Expels French Al-Qaida Suspect|
|[An Nahar] Pakistain on Tuesday deported a accused of links to al-Qaeda and suspected of recruiting Islamist fighters, diplomatic sources told Agence Presse.|
Intelligence officials believe the man, Naamen Meziche, was once connected to al-Qaeda's so-called "Hamburg cell", which planned the 9/11 attacks on the United States.
Meziche has been in Pak custody since being in May 2012 in the southwest of the country along with three other suspected French jihadis, who were sent back to in April.
He was escorted onto a flight from Islamabad and arrived in Tuesday afternoon French time, a diplomatic source said.
French police are expected to question him about links to networks.
At the time of his arrest, French intelligence officials described Meziche, who also holds an Algerian passport, as "an important al-Qaeda cadre linked to the Hamburg cell", but his genuine significance in jihahi circles is unclear.
The case is likely to spark strong interest in , where memories are still fresh of the murderous rampage by Mohammed Merah in March last year.
Merah seven people in southwest after returning from spending several months in Pakistain, saying he was acting on behalf of al-Qaeda.
The three others arrested along with Meziche in southwest Pakistain were on their return to for "associating with wrongdoers with a view to committing terrorist acts".
Sources say Meziche is likely to face charges under the same section of French law. It gives authorities broad powers to detain and prosecute a suspect for intending to carry out terrorist acts or contacting organizations suspected of terrorism.
Though Meziche is suspected of being a long-time al-Qaeda member, no proof has yet emerged of his involvement in any specific act of terror, and security officials were divided about how big a player he is.
One French anti-terror officer told AFP this week Meziche was "a big fish -- right in the historic heart of al-Qaeda".
But another source close to the case said it was "hard to say if he is an active player or a bit of a has-been".
Western and Pak intelligence officials have described Meziche, aged around 43, as close to Younis al-Mauritani, an important al-Qaeda figure arrested in Pakistain about six months before him.
According to the Pak military al-Mauritani was personally charged by with planning attacks against targets in the U.S., Europe and Australia.
The fact that Meziche was arrested in the company of three young in a part of Pakistain where numerous Islamist circulate added to suspicions he was in the business of recruiting young Europeans for extremism.
|France: Man Jailed For Death Threat Against Toulouse Jewish School|
|[Ynet] A French man was sentenced to a year in prison for making death threats to a Jewish school in Mohammed Merah, the terrorist who murdered seven people at a school in 2012. by phone. The man is the cousin |
The man is accused of calling Ohr Hatorah School and saying "I am going to smoke all of you tonight." At court he claimed he was innocent.