Earlier this month a French police officer and his wife were murdered by a mujahid at their home in a suburb of Paris. Before any real investigation had begun, the explanation released by the authorities and dutifully repeated by the media was that the killer, Larossi Abballa, was yet another “lone wolf” killer who had somehow radicalized himself, and lacked any connection to terrorism.
However, additional information has emerged in the last two weeks suggesting that Mr. Abballa was anything but a loner in the world of jihad. Many thanks to Ava Lon for translating the following article from Le Point:
Larossi Abballa: A lone wolf, really?
LePoint.fr has gained access to documents that establish concrete links between Larossi Abballa and jihadists well known to the authorities.
Three of them were placed in custody in connection with the investigation of Larossi Abballa, the murderer of two policemen in Magnanville. Although one man emerged free, Saad Rajraji and Sharaf-Din Aberouz, 27 and 29, were brought before the public prosecutor for a possible indictment. Both were familiar with Larossi Abballa. They had been convicted and imprisoned at the same time, clearly progressing in jihadist circles. Abballa’s relational map is gradually emerging . It indicates that the perpetrator of the two murders maintained direct links with members of the group responsible for the Buttes-Chaumont, Forsane Alizza or the Casablanca attacks. The “lone wolf” theory seems less and less likely.
Sharaf Din Aberouz is one of Larossi Abballa’s relatives. The two men were part of a group of seven French nationals suspected of having links with Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Two of them were arrested in Lahore by Pakistani intelligence in 2011, just before reaching Waziristan, where they planned to train for jihad. Back then Sharaf Din Aberouz was 25 years old. He was sentenced to five years in prison in France for criminal association for the preparation of a terrorist act. He was released on 12 November 2015 on a conditional remission.
“Violent in its relations with the disbelievers”
According to the information we have seen, he was far from being a perfect prisoner. The prison administration calls him “radicalized”, behaving “like a recruiter”, and notes: “He approaches newcomers among the detainees, promotes Islam and begins teaching individuals that he takes under his tutelage.” On 21 February 2012, Sharaf Din Aberouz organized a gathering of forty prisoners during the walk and gave a speech for ten minutes “while the prisoners present — who seemed captivated and admiring — listened in complete silence,” noted the worried agents. On 27 January 2013, he delivered a call to prayer in the middle of the night. On June 6, the guards reported “violent behavior in his relations with the unbelievers.” On 31December 2014, he welcomed the announcement of the execution of Hervé Gourdel in Algeria. To prevent him from radicalizing all his fellow prisoners, he was transferred from one facility to another five times over a period of three and a half years.
Those stays in French prisons were also an opportunity to make friends with bigwigs of Islamist terrorism. He met Maximilian Thibaut, a member of the group Forsane Alizza — called nickel feet of jihad — and Teddy Valcy, a well-known relation of the Kouachi brothers and Amedy Coulibaly, perpetrators of the attacks in January. Even more troubling, the prison administration noted that Larossi Abballa was friends with Rachid Ait El Hadj, a terrorist, also a native of Mureaux, convicted in 2007 for the Casablanca attacks. The latter was stripped of his French nationality in October 2015. He was not the only member of the Casablanca bombings group that knew Abballa: as explained by our RTL colleagues, Fouad Charouali (also stripped of his nationality), the mastermind behind the Casablanca bombings, was a neighbor of the Abballa family. They lived in the same building.
A self-proclaimed imam
Another relationship brought before the prosecutor was the one with Saad Rajraji. He too was part of the Pakistani jihadist connection busted in 2011. Sentenced to five years in prison, he has been free since November 2014. He also associated with people that aroused the suspicions of the secret service. In the phone seized by the prison administration there could be found under different names with four telephone numbers corresponding to Thamer Bouchnak, a self-proclaimed imam, considered responsible for the radicalization of many inmates. The latter organized the reading of religious texts during walks and enjoyed the attention of many stooges “because of his mastery of religious texts,” noted the administration.
Thamer Bouchnak was a member of the group of the Buttes-Chaumont and trained … Cherif Kouachi. Bouchnak knows Djamel Beghal very well, a former GIA and al-Qaida. According to a source close to the case, Thamer Bouchnak was previously considered by the intelligence services as “most likely to take action.” The investigation is ongoing and will determine whether Larossi Abballa acted on orders received, and if he had any accomplices.