Posts Tagged ‘France’

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France mulls ban on Gulf funding of mosques

March 6, 2015

France is considering a prohibition against foreign funding of domestic mosques. This is a sensible proposal given that Saudi funds have been coming with Wahhabi or Salafi strings attached for decades, and Qatar has joined the fray.

But some French Muslims and Socialists oppose the measure, arguing that if mosques cannot be funded by foreign powers then the French government should subsidize the mosques.

How about a third alternative which would be for these mosques to fund themselves through donations from their own members?

From Radio France Internationale on Feb. 15 (h/t EuropeNews):

France to cut Qatar funding of mosques in crackdown on islamic fundamentalism

By RFI with Christina Okello

The French government has announced a series of measures to clamp down on radical Islam being spread in mosques, and wants to cut financial support from countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Critics warn that before it does, it first needs to revise its 1905 law separating Church and State which discriminates against Muslims.

“If foreign countries are stepping in to fund mosques, it’s because the French government won’t” Karim Bouamrane, a socialist candidate in next month’s local elections, told RFI on Saturday.

Bouamrane was reacting to plans by the French government to launch a cultural offensive against Salafist movements, held responsible for brainwashing the country’s young Muslims.

These movements are accused of spreading islamic fundamentalism in mosques, with the financial backing and complicity of countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

“Muslims cannot run the risk of refusing cash from outside, because the French government won’t allocate them funds to build mosques” Bouamrane added, before concluding that the country’s 1905 law separating the Church and State needs to be updated.

The 1905 law, enshrining secularism as a national principle, bars the state from officially recognizing, funding or endorsing religious groups.

But it has come under increased scrutiny in connection with the integration of the Muslim community, many of whom arrived in France in the 1960s, after the 1905 law was passed.

However, Churches and synagogues for instance that were built before 1905, do receive funding and endorsement from the government, leading some Muslims to hit out at double standards.

“Yet the question to reform the law is difficult because France is a laic (secular) country,” Gérard Prudhomme, deputy mayor of Seine-Saint Denis, a rough suburb of Paris, told RFI, “many people against anything which can change this thing.”

However, there are growing calls for the state to fund Muslims’ religious worship in some way, in a bid to plug funding from foreign countries, without compromising its values of secularism…

(See prior Money Jihad coverage of a Gulf Arab funded mega-mosque in Marseille here.)

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Terror money news: suggested reading

March 5, 2015
  • France arrests 6 Chechens for raising funds and recruiting jihadists… more>>
  • Only military force, not conventional counter-terror finance techniques, can bankrupt ISIS… more>>
  • Saudi Arabia is building a neo-Maginot Line to defend against the same jihadist forces that they bankrolledmore>>
  • Hamas is doubling its stockpile of missiles and rockets for no reason in particular… more>>
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Police probe Kouachi’s counterfeit connections

January 20, 2015

Sales of counterfeit goods by Charlie Hebdo attacker Cherif Kouachi helped fund the purchase of weapons,” according to a CNN source. The LA Times reports that Cherif Kouachi began “trafficking in counterfeit clothing and shoes” after his release from jail.

The revelations point to an additional, possible source of revenue behind the terrorist attacks in Paris against Charlie Hebdo’s offices and the Hyper Cacher kosher grocery beyond what has previously been reported. Cherif Kouachi is also said to have received $20,000 from AQAP before leaving Yemen, and fellow terror cell member Amedy Coulibaly purchased several of the weapons used during the attacks drawing from a $7,000 personal loan and possibly by trading in a car. Weapons possessed by the Kouachi brothers and Coulibaly had a reported street value of 27,000 euros.

An associate of Cherif Kouachi, Fritz-Joly Joachim, was arrested in Bulgaria earlier this year, and has since been charged with conspiring with Kouachi in terrorism. A Muslim convert from Haiti with French citizenship, Joachim was arrested while trying to cross the border into Turkey for possible follow-on travel into Syria. Joachim told French television that his dealings with Kouachi were strictly business: “We sold clothes together, shoes, it was just a business connection.” The reporter who interviewed him amplified on those comments, telling Radio Bulgaria that the Kouachi-Joachim business was “re-sale of clothes and shoes across Paris suburbs.”

Connecting the dots between all the reports, it is probable that investigators believe that Kouachi and Joachim were selling knockoffs, and that the money Kouachi made from the sales ultimately helped supplement the funding of the Paris attacks. This wouldn’t be the first time that counterfeit clothes in Europe have been exploited by Islamists: two imams were arrested in for their involvement in a multi-million dollar counterfeit clothing operation in Spain in December 2013.

That being said, while investigators pour over the details of Cherif Kouachi’s finances, we shouldn’t lose sight of the bigger picture of money and training by AQAP in Yemen.

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More Kouachi funding news: suggested reading

January 15, 2015
  • Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula “chose the target, laid the plan and financed the operation” against Charlie Hebdo, according to AQAP chief Nasr al-Ansi… more>>
  • Azerbaijan Press Agency reports that the total value of weapons and ammo seized from the Kouachi brothers’ and Amedy Coulibaly was 27,000 euros… more>>
  • A weapons dealer in Belgium comes clean about selling $5,000 of arms to Coulibaly, which were later used by the Kouachi brothers in the Paris attacks… more>>
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The $20,000 behind the Paris attacks came “from abroad”

January 14, 2015

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) gave $20,000 to future Charlie Hebdo attacker Said Kouachi before he and his brother left Yemen in August 2011 according to CBS News yesterday (h/t El Grillo), which supports Money Jihad analysis of the Kouachis’ funding earlier this week. The report also adds credibility to claims by AQAP and Cherif Kouachi himself that the Charlie Hebdo attacks were planned, ordered, and financed by AQAP itself. The physical transfer of funds to Kouachi suggests that bulk cash smuggling (or the smuggling of other financial instruments) back to Europe was the method used rather than a wire, hawala transaction, or trade-based money laundering operation.

Relatedly, the Associated Press reported weapons for the Paris terrorist attacks came from abroad:

Several people are being sought in relation to the “substantial” financing of the three gunmen behind the terror campaign, said Christophe Crepin, a French police union official. The gunmen’s weapons stockpile came from abroad, and the size of it plus the military sophistication of the attacks indicated an organized terror network, he added.

“This cell did not include just those three, we think with all seriousness that they had accomplices, because of the weaponry, the logistics and the costs of it,” Crepin said. “These are heavy weapons. When I talk about things like a rocket launcher – it’s not like buying a baguette on the corner, it’s for targeted acts.”

The Belgian daily La Dernière Heure corroborates that several of the weapons acquired by the Kouachi brothers and Amedy Coulibaly were bought in Brussels.

The $20,000 figure reported by CBS is also consistent with an estimate over the weekend from counterterror expert Jean-Paul Rouiller. Bloomberg Businessweek reported:

…The Kalashnikov rifles and other weapons used by the attackers, Chérif and Saïd Kouachi and Amedy Coulibaly, likely cost less than €10,000 ($11,800), according to Jean-Paul Rouiller, director of the Geneva Centre for Training and Analysis of Terrorism, a Swiss research group. Including the cost of Saïd Kouachi’s 2011 trip to Yemen, where he may have received training from al-Qaeda, the total price tag for the deadly attacks by the three men might have reached about $20,000…

Bloomberg went on to report that, “for what Rouiller describes as ‘such a low-cost operation,’ financing from abroad would be unlikely”—a theory that now seems to have been disproved by the evidence.

Regardless of where it is finally determined that the funds for the weapons originated, it should be kept in mind that the direct expenses of the Kouachi brothers and Amedy Coulibaly aren’t the only expenditures that matter. The weapons training camp in Yemen that both Kouachi brothers attended in 2011 wasn’t “self-financed” by individual AQAP recruits. The militants at the AQAP camp that trained the Kouachi brothers didn’t self-finance their own wages. The human smuggling network that helped sneak the Kouachi brothers across the border from Oman into Yemen isn’t self-financed. Anwar al-Awlaki, the terrorist imam with whom the Kouachi brothers met while in Yemen and possibly assigned them their marching orders, was not self-financed either. Not to mention that the Kouachi brothers’ basic cost of living in Paris probably wasn’t met by part-time work delivering pizzas and gutting fish at the market.

We will also discover over time that the websites, texts, and videos that the Kouachis and Coulibaly consumed, like most Islamic radical materials, are generally produced by entities backed by Wahhabi patrons. It is important to think of the bigger picture not just of the money it took to carry out the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher operations, but the amount of money it takes to sustain a terrorist infrastructure in Yemen (and beyond) that these sleeper cells count on for arms, training and guidance.

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2011: France may have paid AQAP $12m ransom

January 13, 2015

In March 2011, three French citizens working for the Lyon-based charity Triangle Génération Humanitaire traveled to Hadramawt, Yemen. Agricultural engineer Pierre Perrault, age 29 at the time; fellow engineer and wife Leah Romary, age 25; and water treatment specialist Amelie Morgaut, age 32, intended to assist local authorities with infrastructure improvement projects, which they did until late May of that year until they were abducted by terrorist-affiliated tribesmen.

Perrault, Romary and Morgaut remained in captivity for six months in the typical fashion of kidnappers in that region of the world, which involves transferring hostages among different groups and locations.  But the strings were ultimately being pulled by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). In July, AQAP demanded $12 million from France for the aid workers’ release. French officials didn’t immediately comply, but began third party negotiations with AQAP through interlocutors of the sultan of Oman.

In November, the negotiations concluded. A “senior Yemeni tribal mediator” confirmed to the Associated Press that a ransom had been paid for the hostages’ release. The formal payment was made jointly by a Yemeni businessman living in Oman, Ahmed Ben Férid al-Souraimeh, and by the government of Oman, but Oman was most likely reimbursed by French intelligence behind the scenes.

Officially, France says it does not pay ransoms and did not pay a ransom in this case.  But diplomats, security experts, and terrorist groups themselves know that France does in fact pay ransoms quietly through third parties. France has paid $58 million to terrorist groups for the release of French hostages worldwide since 2008 according to the New York Times.

The Triangle Génération Humanitaire aid workers’ captivity overlapped the July to August 2011 time period in which French-Algerian brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi traveled to Yemen (via Oman) for weapons training and to meet with terrorist imam Anwar al-Awlaki.

The payment of a ransom in Yemen within a few months of the Kouachi brothers’ Yemen tour would have been useful to AQAP to fund the continued purchase of weapons for use in Yemen, to maintain training camps in Yemen, to pay wages of militants and marksmanship trainers Yemen, to cover the air travel and border crossing expenses for prospective recruits, to fund the possible remote purchase of AK-47s and RPGs on the black market in France, and to fund planning and communications for future attacks.

After slaying 12 people at the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris last Wednesday but shortly before his death on Friday, Cherif Kouachi said that he had been financed by AQAP.

In order to have an honest discussion about whether it is proper to pay ransoms to terrorist groups, we must—as grateful as we are all for the release of the Triangle Génération Humanitaire aid workers—acknowledge the distinct probability that the ransom paid in that case may have been more detrimental than helpful to the long-term security interests of France.

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Kouachi brothers’ weapons trail leads to AQAP

January 12, 2015

Yemini intelligence has confirmed that both Said and Cherif Kouachi travelled to Yemen by way of Oman and received marksmanship training after meeting with deceased terrorist imam Anwar al-Awlaki between July and August of 2011. (French authorities have said earlier that one of the brothers also traveled to Yemen in 2005.) From Reuters:

…”These two brothers arrived in Oman on July 25, 2011, and from Oman they were smuggled into Yemen where they stayed for two weeks,” a senior Yemeni security official, who declined to be named, said.

“They met (al Qaeda preacher) Anwar al-Awlaki and then they were trained for three days in the deserts of Marib on how to fire a gun. They returned to Oman and they left Oman on Aug. 15, 2011 to go back to France.”

A senior Yemeni intelligence source confirmed the brothers had entered Yemen via Oman in 2011, citing the ease with which they entered while the security forces were focused on the Arab Spring protests that were convulsing the country at the time.

The source also confirmed the brothers had met Awlaki “and trained in Wadi Abida,” – which is between Marib and Shabwa provinces where Awlaki was known to move freely…

But the tale of the weapons trail doesn’t end there. During their attacks in Paris last week, the Kouachi brothers had AK-47s, a rocket propelled grenade launcher, and 10 smoke grenades among other military-grade weapons. One expert has theorized that the Kouachi sleeper cell was simply waiting for these weapons until they could activate for the Charlie Hebdo attack.

Many of the firearms on the black market in France are sold by the Italian mafia and originate from the Balkans (and perhaps Libya), but illegal online weapons purchases in France are on the rise, too. Keeping in mind that neither of the Kouachi brothers had full-time jobs, and that even just their two Kalashnikovs would have cost about $3,000, it is unlikely they were able to fund these purchases on their own without external help. Cherif Kouachi said before his death that he had been financed by AQAP.

One wonders when France will begin air strikes against AQAP targets in Yemen.

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