Posts Tagged ‘France’

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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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AQAP to reap windfall from Paris attacks

January 10, 2015

After Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed responsibility for planning the attack against Charlie Hebdo, former CIA deputy director Mike Morell told CBS Radio News yesterday that, “This is gonna put a lot of money in AQAP’s pockets. One of the ways you raise money in the terrorist world is to have a successful attack.

Indeed, AQAP would seem to have needed a notable success in the wake of their failed “underwear bomb” of Christmas 2009 and abortive air cargo bomb plot of 2010. AQAP had resorted to robbing banks, post offices, and payroll caravans in recent years, possibly to offset losses as wealthy Arabs diverted their zakat to ISIS rather than traditional Al Qaeda affiliates.

Morell’s comments dovetail with those of terror finance expert Loretta Napoleoni, who recently said of the Islamic State that:

The more famous you are, the more money you attract… The [ISIS] strategy is very interesting because instead of attacking the army of Assad—the army of Damascus—what they did was actually attacking the other jihadist groups. And that gave them a sort of notoriety within the jihadist movement because they looked the strongest, the better organized, the biggest, so everybody wanted to join them—so people wanted to move from one group to another to join them. But the same thing was for the sponsors who said “this is a really good group, this is a better group than the other, so let’s send them money.” Then there’s the other aspect of notoriety which is of course through the Internet. This organization was so popular on the Internet because they were so successful that they started to get money coming from all over the world from sympathizers and supporters.

Read in this light, the Charlie Hebdo attack would seem to put AQAP back on broader jihadist map, and give it a sales pitch for bigger recruitment and donations.

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Follow the francs: the Kouachi brothers’ links

January 9, 2015

Said and Cherif Kouachi, the main suspects in the terror attack on Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday, each have their own relationships to jihadist groups.

The older brother, Said Kouachi, reportedly trained with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Penisula (AQAP) in Yemen. AQAP makes about $10 million a year from ransoms, and is also funded by robberies (including banks, post offices, and payroll delivery trucks), and Saudi donors.  AQAP’s leader has previously said that ransoms make up about half of AQAP’s revenues, suggesting that their overall budget is about $20 million a year.  France’s quiet policy of paying ransoms to terrorist groups to release French hostages may be revisited in the near future given how ransom money can be used by groups like AQAP to train recruits in marksmanship and making bombs.

How Kouachi funded his airfare to Syria, and how the brothers paid for the AK-47s used in the attack (which cost $1,200 to $1,800 on France’s black market), have yet to be determined.

Younger brother Cherif Kouachi was a member of a recruitment ring in Paris known as “Nineteenth Arrondissement Iraqi Networks” or the “Butte-Chaumont network” that funneled Muslims from France to wage jihad in Iraq in the mid-2000s. The ringmaster was Farid Benyettou, an Algerian fed on a steady diet of jihadist texts and websites. As the case of the Tsarnaev brothers in Boston illustrated, the websites that Tamerlan learned from didn’t host, administer, and fund themselves. There is usually an extensive, costly infrastructure behind so-called “lone wolves,” who are actually borrowing information, ideas, and tips from the wider jihadist network. The wider network is much more expensive to maintain than the few hundred or thousands of dollars it may have taken to carry out a single attack.

The Kouachi family is from Algeria, where jihadists including Al Qaeda in North Africa (AQIM) are heavily funded by ransom payments and drug trafficking.

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