Sev­eral France at­tack plots linked to 1 ji­hadi

Baltimore Sun - - WORLD - By Lori Hin­nant

PARIS — A sin­gle French Is­lamic State ji­hadi has emerged as the link among at least four plots to at­tack France since June, three peo­ple with knowl­edge of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion said.

The pre­cise role of the ex­trem­ist, Rachid Kas­sim, is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion, but the of­fi­cials say he has be­come a key in­sti­ga­tor who di­rects re­cruits in en­crypted fo­rums on how and where to carry out the Is­lamic State’s call for Euro­pean Mus­lims to strike at home. Most re­cently, he was be­lieved to be in con­tact with a 19-year-old in an un­prece­dented cell of French women who failed in their at­tempts to det­o­nate a car bomb and kill po­lice.

From the Loire River town of Roanne, Kas­sim, 29, is be­lieved to be in ei­ther Syria or Iraq yet fig­ures in mul­ti­ple French anti-ter­ror in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

Kas­sim’s vir­tual fin­ger­prints were found as early as the June 14 knif­ing of two po­lice of­fi­cials at their home in the Paris sub­urb of Mag­nanville, in which the killer left be­hind not only a video that he had streamed on Face­book Live but a hit list of politi­cians, jour­nal­ists and pub­lic per­son­al­i­ties. That list is be­lieved to have been drawn up by Kas­sim ahead of time, one of the of­fi­cials said. All spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity to dis­cuss the on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

At­tacker Larossi Ab­balla was shot dead when po­lice stormed the home to res­cue the dead cou­ple’s 3-yearold. His video, although re­moved from Face­book, reap­peared in Is­lamic State pro­pa­ganda.

Kas­sim then be­came the pub­lic face of the Is­lamic State’s claim of re­spon­si­bil­ity for the July 14 truck The ji­hadi be­came the pub­lic face of the Is­lamic State’s claim of re­spon­si­bil­ity for the truck at­tack on Nice, France. at­tack on Nice that left more than 80 peo­ple dead, ap­pear­ing in a video in which he threat­ened France and be­headed a cap­tive in Iraq.

On July 26, two French­men who came to­gether on the en­crypted app Telegram slit the throat of an el­derly priest in the Nor­mandy town of Sain­tE­ti­enne-du-Rou­vray, hold­ing nuns and parish­ioners hostage un­til po­lice fa­tally shot the at­tack­ers. In that case, too, Kas­sim ap­peared to have a role, namely in bring­ing the two — Adel Ker­miche and Ab­del Ma­lik Petit­jean — to­gether. Again, videos filmed by the men were al­most im­me­di­ately trans­mit­ted to the Is­lamic State’s me­dia group.

And this past week­end, a 15-year-old was ar­rested at his Paris home to thwart what au­thor­i­ties feared was a planned week­end at­tack — yet an­other per­son un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion for pos­si­ble links to Kas­sim, who was known­even be­fore he left to join the Is­lamic State for pros­e­ly­tiz­ing among young peo­ple.

“He tried to lure young peo­ple,” Ab­den­nour Ben­toumi, the head of the mosque in Roanne, told France Tele­vi­sions. “He told them, heaven isn’t pray­ing. There’s an­other way.”

The Is­lamic State has claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity in its of­fi­cial me­dia for both the at­tack on the church and against the po­lice. It has re­mained si­lent in the case of the car loaded with gas cylin­ders and the sub­se­quent stab­bing of two po­lice of­fi­cers, which the Paris pros­e­cu­tor said came dur­ing a raid to pre­vent the women from car­ry­ing out an­other planned at­tack.

One of those women, iden­ti­fied as 23-year-old Sarah H., was en­gaged first to Ab­balla and then to Ker­miche, ac­cord­ing to the pros­e­cu­tor, Fran­cois Molins. Her cur­rent be­trothed, Molins said, is the brother of a man ar­rested in the Mag­nanville case, yet an­other thread in the web link­ing the cases.

“The act by these young women re­mote-con­trolled by in­di­vid­u­als who can be found in Syria among the ranks of Daesh demon­strates that this or­ga­ni­za­tion wants to make women into com­bat­ants,” said Molins, us­ing an­other name for the Is­lamic State.

Kas­sim seemed to con­firm that fear in an en­crypted Telegram mes­sage, ac­cord­ing to Le Monde news­pa­per.

“You have to un­der­stand, if women are tak­ing ac­tion it’s cer­tainly be­cause too few men will take ac­tion,” he wrote.

IAN LANGSDON/EPA

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