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June 2, 2014 0

Alleged Brussels Jewish Museum Shooter May Have Fought in Syria

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Mehdi Nem­mouche

The sus­pected gun­man in the May 24 attack on the Jew­ish Museum in Brus­sels, Mehdi Nem­mouche, report­edly spent about a year in Syria, where French and Bel­gian offi­cials say he may have fought with the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS), a ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion for­merly asso­ci­ated with Al Qaeda.

The con­nec­tion may sub­stan­ti­ate fears that west­ern­ers fight­ing in Syria could return to attempt attacks in their home coun­tries. Nemmouche’s choice to attack a Jew­ish museum may also fur­ther demon­strate the con­nec­tion between ter­ror­ist ide­ol­ogy and anti-Semitism.

Nem­mouche was arrested in France on Fri­day. At the time of his arrest, he was in pos­ses­sion of con­sid­er­able ammu­ni­tion, includ­ing a Kalash­nikov rifle wrapped in a sheet with the ISIS sym­bol and the words “God is great.” He also had a video recorder on which he had appar­ently claimed credit for the attack and said he wanted to “kill Jews” and to “set fire to Brus­sels and fill it with blood.”

A native of France, Nen­mouche is believed to have been rad­i­cal­ized in prison and to have left for Syria only three weeks after his release in 2012. French and Bel­gian offi­cials claim there is evi­dence that he fought with ISIS while he was there.

The shoot­ing in the museum resulted in 3 deaths and 1 per­son injured. It bears resem­blance to a shoot­ing at a Jew­ish school in Toulouse, France in 2012 by Mohamed Merah. Merah, a French cit­i­zen, had spent time with extrem­ists in Afghanistan and Pak­istan before return­ing to France and per­pe­trat­ing the attack.

As many as 3,000 Euro­peans and 100 Amer­i­cans are believed tohave trav­elled to join the con­flict in Syria. This travel is only increas­ing as  groups uti­lize social media and online pro­pa­ganda to recruit followers.

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January 8, 2014 1

Speaking Out Against Dieudonne

Update: Accord­ing to France 24, Dieudonne was taken into cus­tody on Jan. 22 for allegedly assault­ing a bailiff who came to col­lect fines Dieudonne owes for “incit­ing racial hatred.”

Along­side French gov­ern­ment actions to ban per­for­mances of Dieudonne’s new show, con­cerned and respon­si­ble offi­cials and civil soci­ety lead­ers are pub­licly voic­ing out­rage at the behav­ior of the anti-Semitic come­dian and the grow­ing use of the quenelle ges­ture he invented.dieudonne-speaking-out

The Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Coun­cil of France’s Black Asso­ci­a­tions (CRAN) issued a state­ment, say­ing “For a long time, Dieudonne fought against racism and the far right.  We still remem­ber with emo­tion his actions in the town of Dreux. But for sev­eral years his main fight seems to be against the Jews of France, and he is closer and closer to the far right, his for­mer ene­mies. The CRAN has noticed this evo­lu­tion with dis­may and can only deplore it. (…) The CRAN calls on the Blacks of France not to accept the quenelle or the appeals to anti-Semitism…”

Com­ment­ing on the quenelle ges­ture, pop­u­lar­ized by Dieudonne, the pres­i­dent of the French Coun­cil of the Mus­lim Faith (CFCM) Dalil Boubakeur con­demned its use by the French soc­cer player, Nico­las Anelka, say­ing he opposed “all anti-Semitic or racist acts or state­ments in sports.”

Even the own­ers of Dieudonne’s home the­ater, La Main d’Or, are look­ing for legal means of break­ing his lease.

Pres­i­dent François Hol­lande said, “No one should be able to use this show for provo­ca­tion and to pro­mote openly anti-Semitic ideas.”

Inte­rior Min­is­ter Manuel Valls, who issued the request to local offi­cials to pre­vent the per­for­mances, said, “Dieudonné is deeply anti-Jewish.  We must carry out a polit­i­cal cam­paign to mobi­lize soci­ety against him.”

Cul­ture Min­is­ter Aurélie Fil­ip­petti said, “Mr. Dieudonne is no longer a come­dian.  He has become a Holo­caust denier and revi­sion­ist.”  And Jus­tice Min­is­ter Chris­tiane Taubira called him a “piti­ful buf­foon” and “recidi­viste anti-Semite.”

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June 20, 2013 0

Syrian Front Attracts American And Foreign Fighters

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Eric Har­roun

Update — Octo­ber 15: Arrest of Orange County man and fate of Pitts­burgh man drawn to Syr­ian front under­scores emerg­ing trend.

Increas­ing num­bers of for­eign fight­ers, includ­ing Amer­i­cans, have been attracted to the con­flict in Syria and are attempt­ing to join the rebels fight­ing against the Assad regime.

Accord­ing to some observers, there are some­where between 5,000 and 6,000 for­eign fight­ers already in Syria, com­pris­ing about 10% of the rebel forces. Esti­mates of fight­ers arriv­ing from Europe vary widely, from fewer than 200 to over 600. Var­i­ous rebel groups have claimed “mar­tyrs” from Britain, Den­mark, France and Ireland.

To date, there have been three pub­licly dis­closed cases of Amer­i­cans involved in fight­ing with rebels. Each has been linked to Jab­hat al-Nusrah (JN), a State Department-designated alias for Al Qaeda in Iraq (it is unknown how many Amer­i­cans have entered the con­flict on the side of rebel fac­tions unaf­fil­i­ated with Al Qaeda).

  • Eric Har­roun, a for­mer Amer­i­can sol­dier, was arrested in March 2013 for allegedly con­spir­ing to use a weapon of mass destruc­tion while fight­ing with Jab­hat Al-Nusrah in Syria. While Har­roun was not nec­es­sar­ily recruited, after arriv­ing in Syria he appeared in a pro­pa­ganda video put out by Jab­hat Al-Nusrah. On June 20, Har­roun was indicted on charges of con­spir­acy to pro­vide mate­r­ial sup­port to a for­eign ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion and con­spir­acy to use a destruc­tive device over­seas. Eric Har­roun pleaded guilty to non-terror-related charges in Sep­tem­ber, 2013, and was sen­tenced to time served. That Har­roun fought in Syria is uncon­tested; how­ever, reports dif­fer as to whether he fought with Jab­hat al Nusra.
  • Abdella Ahmad Tounisi, who was arrested in Chicago in April 2013, allegedly researched ways to join Jab­hat al-Nusrah on the inter­net. He allegedly found a web­site adver­tis­ing itself as pro­vid­ing infor­ma­tion to those inter­ested in join­ing “your lion broth­ers of Jab­hat Al-Nusrah who are fight­ing under the true ban­ner of Islam.” The web­site, how­ever, was cre­ated by the FBI to attract poten­tial extremists.
  • Nicole Mans­field, a con­vert to Islam from Michi­gan, was killed in Syria in May 2013. Accord­ing to Syr­ian state-controlled media, she was killed in a car along with two oth­ers, includ­ing a Briton, while fight­ing with the rebels. Syr­ian media claimed that JN’s flag was found in the car.  It should be noted that the Syr­ian regime con­sid­ers all rebel fight­ers and their allies to be ter­ror­ists. Mansfield’s fam­ily did not know she was in Syria, but say that she had been inter­ested in the Arab Spring.

Syr­ian rebel groups, includ­ing JN, have cre­ated social media space and var­i­ous pro­pa­ganda to raise aware­ness, sup­port and poten­tial recruits for their cause in the English-speaking world. These include the exploita­tion of Face­book, blogs, Twit­ter and other platforms.

In the past, Amer­i­cans have proven will­ing to join mil­i­tant groups abroad. For exam­ple, since 2007, at least 52 Amer­i­can cit­i­zens and per­ma­nent res­i­dents have been arrested or charged in con­nec­tion with mak­ing trips abroad in attempts to reach ter­ror­ist groups, receive train­ing, or to par­tic­i­pate in ter­ror­ist attacks. Many of these indi­vid­u­als joined Al Shabaab, but other indi­vid­u­als trav­eled abroad to receive train­ing in Pak­istan or to join Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula.

The con­flict in Syria has attracted for­eign sup­port not just for the rebel cause, but for the Assad regime as well. Iran’s Islamic Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guards Corps is report­edly assist­ing the regime, and Hezbol­lah fight­ers have joined with the Syr­ian army in com­bat­ing the rebels.

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