Four hostages whom Islamist gunman held Friday, Jan. 9 at a Jewish grocery store in Paris were reported dead by French police, shortly after they mounted a rescue operation that killed the gunman, Amedy Coulibaly, who earlier shot dead a policewoman. Other captives were set free. Minutes before, Said and Cherif Kouachi died in a shooting attack on the police siege force at a factory near Dammartin-en-Goelle, 40 km northeast of Paris. They were holed up there threatening to “die as martyrs” with their hostage.
Coulibaly and his partner Hayat Boumedienne had threatened to kill their hostages in Paris if the Kouachi brothers were not freed. Boumedienne, a female terrorist, is reported to have managed to get away. This is not confirmed.
And so the Islamist terror crisis kicked off in France by the murder of 12 people at the Charlie Hebdo magazine Wednesday reached a bloody conclusion – for now.
debkafile reported earlier Friday:
The two Charlie Hebdo terrorists were Friday, Jan. 9 holed up in a printing plant outside Dammartin-en-Goele northeast of Paris, with one or more hostages after a shootout with police. They were surrounded by hundreds of police backed by helicopters overhead. Negotiations for the release of hostages were met with the Islamist gunmen’s willingness to “die as martyrs” rather than surrender.
This was the first time Said and Cherif Kouachi were located nearly three days after they massacred 12 people at the magazine in Paris, despite a manhunt by 88,000 police officers, soldiers, security and intelligence personnel. .
The French authorities must admit to failure on two counts: Nabbing the two Islamic terrorists on the run and averting a string of terrorist attacks in Paris, in which three police officers paid with their lives – although the brothers, at least, were long known to French and Western anti-terror services as terror threats.
debkafile’s counterterrorism experts account for this apparent blindness by those agencies’ over-reliance on technology and double agents, instead of planting ears to the ground on the spot in the terrorists’ natural habitats.
Consequently, Western governments, including Washington, have become inured to admitting after major terrorist attacks in the last three years that the perpetrators’ identities and intentions were actually known in advance to their intelligence and anti-terror agencies. And even, in a few cases, double agents had been recruited and planted inside international Islamic terrorist organizations, including Al Qaeda.
Even so, when it came to the point, these known jihadis were never deterred from carrying out major terrorist crimes. This was demonstrated in a number of atrocities:
On April 15, 2013, the brothers Tamerlan Tsarnayev, 26, and Dzokhar Tsarnaev, 19, tried to blow up the Boston Marathon.
On May 22, in the same year, Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowalo performed an Islamist rite on the streets of London by decapitating the British serviceman Lee Rigby.
A year earlier, on March 2012, Mohammed Merah was responsible for two attacks: He murdered two French commandos in Montauban for France’s participation in the Afghan war, then slew the teacher and pupils of a Jewish school in Toulouse
On May 24, 2014, Mehdi Nemmouche, 29, from the North of France, was able to attack the Jewish Museum in Brussels and kill the Israeli couple, Miriam and Emanuel Riva, as well as a Frenchwoman and Belgian citizen. This was despite the fact that French intelligence had been keeping an eye on Nemmouche because of his association with groups of Islamists who fought in the Syrian war in 2013.
Friday, Jan. 9, the Kouachi brothers were found on the US no-fly list of Americans and foreigners who are barred from flying to the States because of specific security concerns. They were therefore familiar names to counterterrorist agencies when, two days earlier, they murdered 12 people at the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in Paris, including the editor and top French cartoonists and two police officers.
Both had known records.
Cherif had spent time in a French prison in the early 20s for terrorist activities in connection with the recruitment of fighters in the Iraq War, while Said spent time in Yemen four years ago training with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
Their bloody outrage in the heart of Paris did not fit the “lone wolf” or “lunatic” epithet attached to recent terror attacks in France, along with the argument that such actions are impossible to predict or thwart. This argument was heard after a string of attacks on a synagogue, a Jewish-owned printing plant and the mowing down of Christmas shoppers by a vehicle.
There was no question that this was a targeted multiple assassination that called for detailed planning and reconnaissance, as well as knowledge of the location of the editorial board room and the timetable of board meetings attended by the targeted journalists.
In terms of logistics, the perpetrators would have had to get hold of Kalachnikov assault rifles, ammunition belts, bullet-proof vests, gloves, balaclavas and masks, as well as a vehicle for arrival and getaway from the scene of the slaughter.
All these arrangements point to a complex, well-oiled support network, with experience in combat, terror, logistics, intelligence and communications.operations.
Nonetheless, neither the French DGSE (external security) nor the DGSI (internal security) got wind of the murderous conspiracy afoot against the satirical magazine, which was famous for its irreverent cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad as well as holy figures of other religions.
Their signal intelligence (SIGINT) should have at least picked up the chatter which usually precedes terrorist activity. However, this omen too may have escaped them because of incorrect or unfocused “tuning” to suspect communications sites.
French intelligence runs a network called Frenchelon (the counterpart of the US Echelon), which enjoys free rein and huge budgets and is capable of intercepting any voice, linear, cellular or computerized communications transmitted worldwide. This system operates aggressively from French embassies and other institutions in foreign countries, including Israel. Its overriding task is to forestall terrorist activity on French soil and abroad, and it works in partnership with the US FBI and the British MI6 and MI5.
The warning by MI5 domestic security chief, Andrew Parker, the day after the Charlie Hebdo massacre of a growing threat of “mass casualty attacks” was indeed timely. He said “intelligence pointed to the existence of specific plots.” But the UK official also admitted that although three terrorist plots had been foiled in recent months, “it was almost inevitable that one would eventually succeed.”
And therein lies the rub.
The failure of the mighty, many-branched Frenchelon to spot Said and Cherif Kouachi’s plans for the magazine massacre and locate them after the attack when they were on the loose were the symptomatic result of Western over-dependence on technical intelligence and waiver of human intelligence inside the Muslim communities of Paris, Europe and the United States. Anti-terror agencies are therefore short of real-time, tactical information on terror plots afoot – or even the states of mind current in those communities. Both are essential for pinning down violence before it erupts.
In consequence, the two terrorists, instead of being located by the army chasing them, broke cover first and staged the Dammartin-en-Goele hostage-stunt northeast of Paris. They said they are ready to die as martyrs rather than surrendering, so that they can go down in a cloud of Islamist glory.