It seems that every time a terrorist attack occurs we hear the words ‘lone wolves’.

French authorities have uncovered information which puts paid to this theory.

Le Monde revealed more about the abortive attack on a church in the Parisian suburb of Villejuif in April 2015, where the gunman shot himself in the foot and had to call emergency services!

Sid Ahmed Ghlam, 24, originally from Algeria, was the hapless gunman. Unfortunately, he had murdered an innocent motorist, Aurélie Chatelain, earlier that morning in order to steal her car.

The authorities believed then that Ghlam was part of a wider network of terrorists and received his instructions from a foreign country, probably Syria. They pursued their hypothesis and uncovered an extensive network linking others who have been plaguing France for more than a decade.

It appears that Ghlam has a link to a man known to police since 2001: Fabien Clain, originally from La Réunion, a French overseas territory. Clain was close to Mohamed Merah, responsible for shootings in Bordeaux a few years ago. He later killed himself in a lengthy standoff with police. At the time, Merah was called a ‘lone wolf’.

Fabien Clain and his brother Michel formed a Salifist cell in 2001. Their wives, converts to Islam, wore burqas even then.

In 2004, the Clains merged their cell with that of Olivier Corel, known as the ‘white Emir’. Corel emigrated to France from Syria.

On Corel’s farm in Artigat in rural Ariège, the Clains met two of Mohamed Merah’s relatives, brother Abdelkader Merah and step-brother (or perhaps brother-in-law) Sabri Essid. The authorities have long known about the Artigat cell.

In 2009, Fabien Clain was sentenced to five years in prison for being part of a network planning to go to Iraq. After his release, he joined IS.

Back to Ghlam’s contacts. Police discovered instructions he received regarding picking up a Renault Megane on the day he was to attack the Villejuif churchgoers. The message mentioned two names: Vega and Thomas. These turned out to be Macreme A. (Vega) who ran the garage with the Megane and Thomas M., his assistant. Both are from Seine-Saint-Denis just outside of Paris.

Both of these men spent time in Syria earlier this year and were part of Fabien Clain’s terrorist network.

There are other networks linked to Ghlam. Rabah B., originally from Algeria, is suspected of organising the weapons which were to be stored in the Megane. Rabah B. is thought to have links to an older cell, since disbanded, Chérifi. Eleven members of this cell were convicted in 2011 for conspiring to attack a French security service, the DST. Rabah B. resumed his association with them once they were released from prison.

Two other men are or were under investigation. One is close to Moussa Coulibaly (no relation to the Coulibaly of the kosher supermarket attacks) who assaulted three military personnel in Nice on February 3, 2015. This, too, was thought to have been the act of a ‘lone wolf’ on the back of the Charlie Hebdo – Hyper Kasher massacres.

The other suspect, since released, was Pascal K. His DNA was found on a hairbrush at Ghlam’s flat. However, Pascal’s brother Franck is a French army deserter. Franck is believed to have been a follower of Farid Benyettou, former mentor of Chérif Kouachi, one of the brothers who carried out the Charlie Hebdo murders and held the printing plant hostage a few days later.

Le Monde makes this observation:

The old networks of the 2000s have planted their seeds. Sid Ahmed Ghlam was under their thumb. That is, until he shot himself in the foot.

‘Lone wolves’? Not any more.

 

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