French Police Are Targeting The Relatives Of ISIS Fighters In A Terror Sweep


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Police have detained three relations of a infamous French ISIS commander believed killed 11 months in the past in Iraq within the newest signal of the federal government’s fear that supporters of the unconventional terrorist group could also be at giant in France.

The arrests got here in raids on Monday and Tuesday that focused relations of Rachid Kassim, a French ISIS commander who is assumed to have been killed in a US drone strike exterior town of Mosul final February.

Seized within the raids, based on a French undercover police officer who requested to stay nameless as a result of he was not approved to speak to reporters, was Kassim’s 17-year-old brother and two cousins, 25 and 30. Kassim’s brother was detained in Roanne, in central France, the place Kassim was born in 1987. The cousins had been arrested within the suburbs of Dijon, within the nation’s east.

The officer mentioned French authorities focused the three males as a result of that they had remained in shut contact with Kassim, whose fame was fed, partially, by his look in a July 2016 video by which he beheaded an ISIS captive.

The officer advised BuzzFeed Information that authorities additionally had detained the spouse and three kids of one other French citizen who’d joined the group in Iraq as they disembarked at Charles de Gaulle Airport from a flight that originated in Baghdad. The officer declined to offer the names of the relations or present the precise day of their detention as a result of authorities haven’t but determined whether or not to cost them with a criminal offense for having lived inside ISIS-controlled territory.

French officers confirmed the arrest of Kassim’s kin to French information shops on Thursday, however declined to substantiate the airport arrests. An official of the French Common Directorate for Inside Safety, identified by its French acronym DGSI, nonetheless, advised BuzzFeed Information the airport arrests had taken place. The official additionally refused to reveal further data, citing privateness and authorized protections for youngsters.

Hundreds of French residents are believed to have joined ISIS in Iraq and Syria from 2013 to 2016, and for the previous 12 months, France has pursued a public coverage of making an attempt to kill as a lot of these fighters as doable on the battlefield in hopes of stopping their return to France. Now, French officers are attempting to find out what to do with relations who joined family members in ISIS-controlled areas however could not have dedicated any crimes and will now be allowed to return.

“French police and intelligence have a significant issue,” mentioned the officer. “Kassim’s household and the household on the airport are solely the beginning of this disaster. Now we have 1000’s of names of associates and households of ISIS members and different jihadists from al Qaeda that have to be checked, along with a whole lot of fighters or households who may need to return from Iraq and Syria. It’s not simple figuring out who may also have been radicalized or simply innocently stayed involved with a beloved one. This may take years to resolve.”

The undercover officer mentioned shut household and neighborhood connections make figuring out who’s an precise menace or who may merely be a longtime pal tough.

“The jihadis recruit for militant teams in a set approach,” he mentioned. “They aim brothers, cousins, sisters, mates from faculty. It’s normally a small surroundings nevertheless it causes many issues for investigators as a result of we are able to’t arrest somebody for speaking to his brother or cousin who joined ISIS in Iraq. For all we all know they’re begging him to return and cease killing. Or he’s being recruited. However was it profitable or not?”

He famous that the Paris-Brussels cell chargeable for terrorist assaults in these cities two years in the past started as a bunch of drug sellers earlier than its members turned radicalized.

“Typically we discover that one member will probably be radicalized by jihadists in jail and when he’s launched, all of a sudden his drug gang is non secular and promoting medication to fund journey to jihad,” the officer mentioned. “So now we as police need to look not just for jihadists on one hand and criminals on the opposite, however in any respect the 1000’s of non-public, household and perhaps prison connections and see if perhaps the drug supplier has additionally grow to be a jihadi.”

Kassim suits this profile nearly completely, based on individuals who have investigated him. Initially a small-time prison and aspiring rap artist, he turned non secular round 2010 in response to what he claimed in an ISIS interview was “gay academics” who pressured college students to eat pork at college meals. By 2011, police say, he traveled to Egypt to study higher Arabic, research faith, and make connections with Egyptian radicals based mostly within the Sinai. From there, he traveled to Syria and have become a frontrunner of French-speaking overseas fighters.

Each the DGSI official and the undercover officer mentioned Kassim was believed to have been in contact with the perpetrators of so-called lone wolf assaults in France and to have organized a sequence of on-line discussion groups for aspiring French-speaking jihadists. One participant in these discussion groups, Larossi Abballa, murdered a police officer and his spouse in Magnanville, France, on June 13, 2016, in a brutal knife assault that was partially broadcast stay on Fb. He’s additionally believed to have used the chat group to instruct Abdel-Malik Petitjean and Adel Kermiche, two French residents who beheaded a priest in Normandy whereas claiming ISIS membership on July 26, 2016.

French intelligence officers have advised BuzzFeed Information in earlier interviews that his management position within the group had earned him the eye of the American-led coalition, which tracked his actions and repeatedly focused him and his staff inside ISIS territory earlier than apparently succeeding in killing him final February with a drone strike in Mosul.

Annabelle Azade contributed further reporting to this story.

Mitch Prothero is a World reporter based mostly in Brussels. Contact this reporter at [email protected]
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Contact Mitch Prothero at [email protected]

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