Friday, January 30, 2015

Hayat Boumeddiene, Jihad Wife in #ParisAttacks, Fled France with Help of Syria Terror Network


Jihadists literally can flow in and out of Europe like a summer breeze.

At the Wall Street Journal, "Underground Terror Network Said to Benefit Would-Be Jihadists in Europe: Officials Say Wife of Paris Gunman Used Resources to Reach Islamic State Territory in Syria":

Hayat Boumeddiene photo 150112-hayat-boumeddiene-suspect-640p_ce8368d74a6d2ff154319d14c64b9f2a_zpszev1wyar.jpg
PARIS—When a young Frenchwoman showed up early this month at an Islamic State border checkpoint in northern Syria, the extremists controlling that arid expanse were expecting her.

They waved her right through and let her bodyguards accompany her, according to Western counterterrorism officials.

The militants had been told to give Hayat Boumeddiene special treatment by the network of chaperones who had arranged her travel. The reason would soon be clear: The same day she crossed the border, her husband, Amedy Coulibaly, unleashed his terror spree in Paris, and she became the most-wanted woman in France.

No charges have been filed but authorities are eager to question Ms. Boumeddiene. “She is the prize—a high-value asset—because she knows a lot about the preparation of the attack,” said a counterterrorism official.

Her journey from the gritty suburbs of Paris to the Syrian border followed a circuitous route that—much like an underground railroad—allowed her to slip away covertly.

Islamic State’s ability to provide safe harbor to friends and family removes potential obstacles for would-be attackers in the West. They no longer need to be part of a terror group’s rank-and-file to benefit from its resources, according to Western counterterrorism officials and people close to militant networks.

There isn’t any evidence Mr. Coulibaly took orders from Islamic State, although he pledged his allegiance in a video that circulated online after his death.

But he didn’t act in isolation either. Instead, he tapped into a grass-roots network that grew along with al Qaeda and has begun to reconfigure around Islamic State. “It’s a new operating mode. The logic is different,” said Daniel Fellous, a French lawyer specializing in terror cases.

Years before Mr. Coulibaly took to the streets of Paris armed with AK-47s—killing four hostages at a kosher grocery and a policewoman—the people suspected of shepherding his wife to Syria were cutting their teeth on a narrower mission: recruiting and sending French nationals to fight U.S. troops in Afghanistan, according to court documents.

French authorities thought they had dismantled the network.

In July 2014, a French court convicted nine members on charges of assisting an Afghan jihadist network suspected of planning terrorist attacks. Some, however, were released due to time served while awaiting trial. And some group members had logistical expertise that French police now suspect was put to use in helping Mr. Coulibaly.

Phone taps, interrogations and other documents compiled as part of that trial and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal portray a homegrown network that spread tentacles across continents.

It included Yassine Bouzid, who navigated Alpine byways to reach Italy’s Adriatic coast; Zahir Chouket, whose myriad contacts in Turkey could move people through to Afghanistan; and Mohamed Belhoucine, a lanky computer programmer who went by the handle “oussama911.”

During the trial, Mr. Bouzid acknowleged helping militants reach Afghanistan. For a while, he said, he viewed jihad as similar to the brigades of international volunteers during Spain’s civil war in the 1930s, but would have never supported attacks on civilians.

Police recently questioned him in connection to Mr. Coulibaly’s attacks, according to Mr. Fellous, who represents Mr. Bouzid. No charges have been brought against him, Mr. Fellous said.

Mr. Chouket was convicted in absentia and remains on the run. Police updated an existing arrest warrant to include suspicions he was involved in Ms. Boumeddiene’s escape. His legal representation is unknown.

Mr. Belhoucine dropped out of one of France’s top engineering schools because—as he wrote in a letter contained in the court documents—“multidisciplinary teaching doesn’t correspond to my professional ambitions.”

According to the court documents, Mr. Belhoucine fielded emails from Afghanistan, reporting on the status of French militants bearing nicknames like “Call of Duty 4,” based on the warfare videogame. “I was in charge of passing on messages from the men on the front,” he told police...
Still more.