Posts Tagged ‘France’

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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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Biggest prior terrorist attack on France funded by Algerian from London

January 8, 2015

Before the Charlie Hebdo massacre yesterday, the last major terrorist attacks on French soil were the Paris transit bombings of 1995. Those attacks, which killed eight and injured 150, were carried out by the Groupe Islamique Arme (GIA), an Algerian jihadist group. The mastermind of the GIA bombings was Rachid Ramda, an Algerian living in the U.K. at the time who the British then detained but refused to extradite to France until 10 years later. The delay in Ramda’s extradition was allegedly because of Great Britain’s “Londonistan” policy of not wanting to offend Muslim investors and immigrants even to the point of jeopardizing public safety. Ramda was eventually convicted on several charges over the Paris bombings, including the financing of the attacks which involved a wire transfer from Ramda to onsite bomber Ait Ali Belkacem. Here’s a look back at coverage of Ramda’s conviction by Reuters from 2007:

French court convicts Algerian of Paris bombings

A French court jailed Algerian Rachid Ramda for life on Friday for his role in financing a spate of bomb attacks on the Paris underground rail network that killed eight people and wounded 200 others in 1995.

Paris Assizes Court ordered that Ramda should serve a minimum 22 years behind bars for his role in the attacks, the worst bombings on mainland France since World War Two.

Court president Didier Wacogne, sitting with six professional assessors, said Ramda was “guilty of complicity to murder and attempted murder” as well as an array of explosives and other offences.

Around 70 relatives and friends of victims of the attacks were present for the verdict which was met in silence.

Ramda, 38, who denied the charges, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2006 for terrorist conspiracy linked to the same bombing campaign.

His lawyer Sebastien Bonot protested during the case that Ramda was being tried a second time for the same crime, and said after Friday’s verdict that his client would appeal.

“This decision is certainly not a surprise but we feel that justice and the law have not been done,” he told reporters.

The prosecution said Ramda was a key figure in Algeria’s radical Armed Islamic Group (GIA), and added that phone taps showed he was in regular contact with Ali Touchent and Boualem Bensaid, the GIA’s coordinators in France.

A police search of Ramda’s London address produced a Western Union payment slip bearing his fingerprints which showed he had sent 5,000 pounds ($10,250) to the Paris bombers

The source of the Charlie Hebdo attackers’ weapons and money are not yet known.

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Jihad funding news: recommended reading

December 24, 2014
  • A Pakistani jihadist group’s front charity is now operating in Gazamore>>
  • How Sokolow v. Palestinian Liberation Organization could help bankrupt the PLOmore>>
  • Several countries have funded terrorists by paying ransoms to Al Qaeda; 6 those countries have been named… more>>
  • When it comes to financing terrorism, Qatar runs with the hare and hunts with the houndsmore>>
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Charity raised zakat in France for jihad in Syria

December 8, 2014

Two leaders of an Islamic charity in Paris have been indicted for raising money for terrorists in Syria and Iraq including al-Nusra Front.  (Hat tip to El Grillo and Sal.)  The charity, Pearl of Hope, had its assets frozen in January and was closed by authorities in November.  A French news weekly reported that Pearl of Hope collected 60,000 to 100,000 euros (75K-130K USD), but it is unclear if all of that went to Syria and Iraq, or if it included the charity’s operations in Gaza.

The founder and president the charity, Yasmine Znaidi, responded by saying, “My crime is to be Muslim.”  She has previously claimed to be mostly interested in helping orphans and distributing baby milk.  The website OnIslam referred to the charity’s closure as the result of the “government’s witch hunt” against Muslim charitable giving.

Jihad financier, president of Perle d'Espoir

Ms. Znaidi, President of Pearl of Hope

Actually, the hands of authorities seem to have been forced by the behavior of Znaidi’s colleague, Nabil Ouerfelli, who posted incendiary comments along with photos of weapons and the black flag of jihad on Facebook while he fought alongside other jihadists in Syria.  Ouerfelli had also taken 10,000 euros in cash with him to Syria.

The website Dreuz was critical of the the delay in acting against Pearl of Hope, noting that the charity has has been engaged in financing terrorism in Gaza for a couple years, but that French authorities ignored their activities until they crossed the line by working with jihadists in Syria and Iraq.  Dreuz also notes that Comité de Bienfaisance et de Secours aux Palestiniens (CBSP) has routinely transferred money to Hamas, but has not been held accountable by French authorities. The U.S. lists CBSP as a specially designated global terrorist entity, and CBSP was named in the terror finance lawsuit against Arab Bank as well as suits against Credit Lyonnais.

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