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French Al Qaeda Member was watched but Allowed to Operate!

Interesting Article: "French Al Qaeda fanatic was on terror watch list, caught planting Taliban bombs and a suspect in first murder two weeks ago" by Peter Allen & Lee Moran / Paris published Thursday, March 23, 2012

An interesting article mentioned that serious questions are being asked as to why French security services allowed Al Qaeda fanatic Mohammed Merah to roam free for so long. The self-confessed terrorist, who killed seven in a series of calculated killings across south west France, was yesterday shot dead in the head after a dramatic 32-hour siege. Would you like to know more?


Pressure is now being heaped on security chiefs, who face growing criticism they should have prevented the spree. Calls are being made for a far-reaching intelligence inquiry into their 'serious failings'. The jobless French-Algerian was initially suspected, alongside his older brother Abdelkader, of the first murder of a soldier almost two weeks ago. Staggeringly the brothers, both members of a small extremist group, were not picked up. French police said their group was 'harmless'. It was only after a further two soldiers, and then three Jewish children and a rabbi were gunned down, that police started to point the finger.

Merah had been on French 'watch list' since 2008 after being jailed in Afghanistan in 2007 for helping to run a bomb factory. He was on another list banning him from entering the U.S., and was known to have attended an Al Qaeda training camp on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border.

Arrested for kidnapping a man and sword-waving rampaging around his neighbourhood where he screamed 'Al Qaeda', police soon let him go. French intelligence had also once warned Spanish authorities that he was planning to go to a meeting of Islamist activists. And just two weeks before his killing spree he was in court on minor driving offences. He was freed from jail so he could appeal. His brother is currently under arrest, suspected of helping, or even masterminding, the attacks.

Hardened by battling Islamic militants from its former North African colony of Algeria, France's security services have long been regarded as among the most effective in Europe, having prevented militant attacks on French soil for the last 15 years. Opposition politicians, including far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, suggested that negligence or errors had permitted Mohamed Merah, 23, to carry out three deadly shootings within 10 days before he was identified, located and killed.

Foreign Minister Alain Juppe had appeared to acknowledged on Thursday that there were grounds to question possible security flaws, saying: "We need to bring some clarity to this." Merah's elder brother Abdelkader, 29, who is being questioned by police, was also on a security watch list after being linked with the smuggling of Jihadist militants into Iraq in 2007, government officials said.
Merah, a French citizen of Algerian extraction, amassed a cache of at least eight guns under the noses of French intelligence, including several Colt .45 pistols of the kind he used in the shootings, but also at least one Uzi submachine gun, a Sten gun and a pump action shotgun.

In Washington, two U.S. officials said Merah was on a U.S. government "no fly" list, barring him from boarding any U.S.-bound aircraft. His name had been on the list for some time. Rebsamen said that after the shooting of two paratroopers in Montauban, near Toulouse, on March 15, Merah's name was on top of a DCRI list of 20 people to be particularly closely watched in the southwestern Midi-Pyrenees region. Yet the agency appeared to have lost trace of him.

He had, however, been known to the Central Directorate of Interior Intelligence (DCRI) - the powerful super agency created by President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2008 - since 2010. Merah first visited Afghanistan that year, was stopped at a checkpoint by Afghan police in Kandahar province and sent back to France by American forces. His second visit ended after three months last October when he contracted hepatitis and returned home, according to the public prosecutor in charge of the case.
Although Merah could not have been arrested without proof of criminal intent, critics say authorities could have taken intermediate steps. French anti-terrorist law allows for the telephones of suspects to be tapped without judicial approval on the authority of the prime minister and an advisory panel.

While allies Britain and Spain have suffered major militant attacks in the last decade, following the U.S.-led NATO invasion of Afghanistan to topple the Taliban, France had not seen a major attack on its soil since the mid-1990s. The rise of al Qaeda, based in Afghanistan, posed a new challenge to French security services more used to watching Algerian-related militants, often with connections in what some French officials called "Londonistan".

References:
http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/23/us-france-shooting-guns-idUSBRE82M0YW20120323


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