Lessons From Paris And Brussels Attacks By ISIS
The background in both these attacks is the fact that a larger number of families have fled from Iraq and Syria and obtained shelter in Western European countries in the last several years after the destabilising situation in both these countries. It is natural for these countries to give shelter to Muslim people of Syria or Iraq, but the security agencies of both these countries should have geared themselves to keep a secret watch on all the Muslim people who have sought and obtained shelter in their countries. Now, after the two incidents in Paris and Belgium, it is being reported that some young men from among the refugees had gone to Syria and come back. They had come under the influence of committed Islamic jihadis and been converted and since then have been plotting to collect weapons and plan an attack on their Christian hosts. The French and the Belgian Police have completely failed in not keeping a strict surveillance on their newly arrived Muslim guests from Syria or Iraq.
It is several weeks since the attacks, but no information has come from all the standard international journals of how these immigrants secured the weapons with which they attacked in Paris and Belgium. Both the Belgian and French authorities have publicly stated that they were unprepared to face such attacks. From whatever little information available from international journals, I feel both France and Belgium have not taken even minimum security measures to prevent such attacks. For example, the airport in Brussels allows a person to take his baggage into the airport without an electronic check at the entrance. This check is done only when booking the luggage. In Delhi, we have dozens of underground metro stations. No luggage or person can enter the station without an electronic check for metals. If this is the case in India’s capital, it is amazing that in an international airport in one of Europe’s capital cities , there is no electronic check at the entrance. The three militants seen walking wheeling their baggage inside the airport, had managed to bring their weapons into the airport. They took their time and when they had decided to open fire they took out their weapons and fired and killed a number of innocent people. I should say that this was unpardonable criminal negligence.
The second and much more important lapse is that when refugees from Iraq or Syria were received and allowed to settle in France and Belgium, what measures were taken to see that there were no refugees who could have been brainwashed and likely candidates for jihad. Also how did they get these weapons? It is reported now that several young men from among the settlers had travelled to Syria and come back. Obviously no watch was being kept on these young men and it is still not known how or when they managed to bring weapons inside the country.
Developments in Investigation
The Belgian police had arrested one Khalid Zerkani from the attic of a house in a locality called Molinbeek in 2014. From his computer they found a trove of extremist literature. He was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment for participating in the activities of a terrorist group. The network that he helped nurture has emerged as a central element in attacks in both Paris and Brussels, as well as one in France, that was foiled. Zirkane was found to have perverted an entire generation of youngsters particularly in the Molinbeek area as stated by his prosecutor in February 2016. Court documents and interviews with Molinbeek’s residents as well as with security officials suggest that he had direct or indirect connection with several crucial persons who are now dead or arrested in connection with the November massacre in Paris that killed 130 persons and the bombings in Brussels that killed thirty two.
Belgian investigators say that Abdul Hamid Abbaoud, a Molinbeek resident who led the attacks in Paris was a disciple of Zarkani Najim Lachraoui, who is suspected to be the bomb maker in both the Paris and Brussels’ attacks, is also reported to be part of this gang.
Among the Zarkani recruits was one Abbaoud, who was killed a few days back after the Paris attacks, when French Police stormed his hideout and Salah Abdeslam, suspected to be the architect of the Paris attacks was captured in Molinbeek last month.Incidentally, the ISIS magazine posts online, biographies tying the Brussels network to Syria. It is reported that somewhere there is a digital archive containing the portraits of the ISs network of fighters in Europe. The image of each fighter was stored in this data base, months before last years’ attacks in Paris and after each new terrorist attack, the group had reached into it and released the photographs.
The latest issue of Dabiq, the ISIS’s online magazine includes an image of Najim Lachraoui the twenty four year old pupil who was last seen wheeling a suit case into Brussels airport, which had a bomb that was later detonated. It is interesting that both Lachraoui’s and his partners uniform match those that was worn by the Paris attackers last November, as shown in another set of photographs and an accompanying video also pulled from the archive. These were reportedly shot in Syria or Iraq before the attacks and made public later. They have the same desert camouflage pattern. Before returning to Europe, both the Brussels bombers and the Paris attackers posed for carefully choreographed scenes, showing the atrocities that they committed in Syria and Iraq. The purpose was clear, to show the West that the attackers were sent from the heart of the groups terror machinery. In a short biography of Lachraoui, also identified as Abu Idris al Belgiqi, the ISIS says that he was the bomb maker for + both the Paris and Brussels attacks.
Paris was a warning says the foreword to the magazine, Brussels was a reminder. What is yet to come will be more devastating and more bitter.
We have a very clear picture of a diabolical merciless organisation that should should be tackled with the best available talent relentlessly till every such rabid individual is identified and sentenced to life imprisonment. Every country where the ISIS has targeted should gear up their security forces to assiduously track the ISIS cadres and arrest them and try them and sentence them to life imprisonment.
By E N RAmmohan
(The writer is former Director General, BSF.)