Another Terrorist Ambush in France

Paris to Calais Map

The sentinels of Paris has no idea that a terrorist lay in wait ready to spring his ambush. Clearly he had done his homework, casing the target and noting their movements. Now he waited for the perscribed time when the unsuspecting soldiers would depart the barracks to begin their patrol to keep Paris safe.

Yesterday, on August 9, 2017, a group of six French soldiers departing their barracks at Place de Verdun in the suburb of Levallois-Perret in Paris were ambushed. A terrorist launched his weapon accelerating the BMW he was driving and rammed into the unsuspected soldiers. The soldiers were from the 35th Infantry Regiment who were part of Operation Sentinel, set up to protect critical sites around Paris after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in 2015.

After striking and injuring the soldiers, Hamou Benlatreche, an Algerian national sought to escape capture. But he didn’t go to ground or hideout in a safehouse.  Where might he be seeking refugge? Where was he heading? It is too soon to know for certain but it appears he was attempting to flee not only Paris but France. A police trainee in his vehicle saw a black BMW with extensive damage to the windshield, hood and front end speeding north on the A15 highway. The police trainee took  down the license plate and mentioned it when he went into the police station. Soon the damaged vehicle was spotted on the A16 highway heading north. French police were able to stop the vehicle and ended up shooting Hamou Benlatreche five times before he was captured.

One can only surmise that Benlatreche was attempting to reach Calais where he could have boarded a ferry to Dover. The 21 mile journey across the English Channel would put him out of France. This seems to be the only reason one would take have taken the A16 highway heading north.

While many of the more recent attacks in Paris have targeted soldiers and police officers they have been guarding critical and tourist sites. We have seen terrorists attack locations like the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum, Notre Dame Cathedral, and even on the Champs Elysees. By attacking soldiers, police and tourist sites this impacts tourism which has a cascading impact on the French economy. In 2016,  1.5 million less tourists visited Paris than in 2015 taking a huge bite out of the economy.

On August 5, 2017, a 19 year old French citizen who was recently released from a psychiatric hospital brandished a knife at police officers while trying to enter the secure zone of the Eiffel Tower. Tha man was inspired by the Islamic State and shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is Great).

On June 6, 2017, Ikken Farid attacked a Paris police officer with a hammer in the square of Notre Dame Cathedral.  Another police officer shot Farid who was transported to a hospital. During the attack Farid shouted, “This is for Syria.” The gothic cathedral on the River Seine attracts over 13 million visitors each year.

On April 21, 2017, Abu Yuffel al-Belgiki opened fire on police officers in their vehicle on the Champs Elysees Aveune. Abu Yuffel killed Officer Xavier Jugele and injured two other police officers. The terrorist got out of his vehicle on the Champs Elysees and opened fire on police with an automatic weapon. Abu Yuffel  then attempted to flee on foot but was killed. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. Officer Jugele had been one of the first responders at the Bataclan terrorist attack in November 2015.

Terrorist have been relentless in attacking targets in France. On July 14,  2016,  Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, a Tunisian, rented a truck which he drove into the crowds on the Promenades des Anglais in Nice as people celebrated Bastille Day. Lahouaiej-Bouhlel plowed into people after a firework show and killed 86 and injuring over 300 people.

In the Islamic State’s 3rd issue of Rumiyah, there is an article entitled “Just Terror Tactics” that gives advice for individuals in selecting the “ideal vehicle” to use in a terrorist ramming attack. The article mentioned this tactic was “superbly demonstrated in the attack launched by the brother Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel who, while traveling at the speed of approximately 90 kilometers per hour, plowed his 19-ton load-bearing truck into crowds celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, France. . . .”

On January 7, 2016, a man wearing fake explosives attacked police officers at a Paris Police Station with a meat cleaver shouting “Allahu Akbar.” Police officers killed the suspect.

While we think often of just the terrorists who have conducted these attacks in France, there are those who have inspired, directed, manipulated, motivated, financed provided aid, assistance and logitcal support. Without these others these attacks would not be able to be executed. Hamou Benlatreche may have run over six French soldiers in Paris but others have played a role in this attack and governments must work to remove not only the support network, the inspirational network, and the ideological network that all play a role in these types of attacks. If we don’t then we will continue to have individuals carrying out attacks in the city of lights.

 

Terrorists Targeting Christians in Yemen

Missionaries of Charity Sign Photo

Christians have been targeted and killed in increasing numbers this last year. Terrorists have targeted people of faith in Nigeria, Kenya, Pakistan, Libya, Egypt, the Philippines, Central African Republic, Iraq, Syria and numerous other countries. Recently, terrorists attacked Catholic nuns in Aden, Yemen. On the morning of March 4, 2016, terrorist gained entry to the nursing home run by the Missionaries of Charity in Aden, Yemen. The terrorist tricked a guard into allowing entry and killed him immediately. The six gunmen killed 17 individuals including four nuns from Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity Order. Among those killed were Sister Anselm from India, Sister Margherite and Sister Reginette from Rwanda and Sister Judith from Kenya. The Sisters cared for almost 80 mentally challenged and physically handicapped children as well as a number of elderly and dying people.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta founded the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic Order of Sisters in 1950. Today the Order has over 4,500 Sisters in over 125 countries all dressed in the familiar blue and white sari. All members of the Order take the vows of chastity, poverty, obedience, and to give wholehearted and free service to the poorest of the poor. That last vow is what Mother Teresa was known for and what the nuns in Aden were doing-caring for the poorest of the poor.

This was not the first time that the Missionaries of Charity were attacked by terrorist. On July 28, 1998, Abdullah Nasheri gunned down three nuns just outside their clinic in Hodeidah, Yemen. Nasheri stated during his interrogation that he killed the nuns because they were preaching Christianity. The three slain nuns were all medical nurses working at the clinic. Nasheri had been to Afghanistan and waged jihad in Bosnia in 1992. Nasheri was convicted in 2000 and executed by a firing squad in April 2003.

For 25 years the sisters of the Missionaries of Charity had been providing care to those in Hodeidah. In 1973, Mother Teresa sent five Sisters to Hodeidah to set up a home for unwanted children and to care for adults with diseases and birth defects. Terrorist attacks, civil war and targeted assassinations have not deterred the sisters from caring for those less fortunate in Yemen. Terrorist also have a history of conducting attacks in Yemen against Christians.

On December 30, 2002, Abed Abdul Razak Kamel of Al-Islah, an Al Qaeda affiliated group killed three members of the Jibla Baptist Hospital. This Baptist Hospital had been providing key medical services in Jibla for over 35 years. Kamel entered the hospital with an AK-47 and killed William Koehn, the hospital director, Dr. Martha Myer and Kathleen Gariety, the hospital’s purchasing agent. Donald Caswell, who ran the pharmacy was shot by Kamel but survived. Koehn had spent over 28 years at the hospital and Dr. Myer had been in Yemen for 24 years. Kamel was convicted in December 2002 and was executed four years later.

St. Joseph’s Catholic Church was one of only a few churches that had remained open in Aden throughout the fighting and bombing. On September 16, 2015, suspected Al-Qaeda terrorists set fire to the church in the Tawahi District of Aden. The systematic targeting of churches and Christians by terrorists continues with the aim to close down churches and drive Christians out of Yemen. On December 9, 2015, the Immaculate Conception Church was blown up in the Ma’ala District of Aden.

As the Easter season approaches we must remember that Christian Churches and people of faith in Yemen and around the world are under siege. The Missionaries of Charity in Yemen have followed in Mother Teresa’s footsteps caring for the poorest of the poor. While almost everyone else who could flee Yemen has fled-small groups which includes these courageous sisters who wear the white and blue striped sari have remained and continue to tend to those in need. We need to do more to eradicate terrorism where ever it raises its ugly head and support those who are in these conflict areas facing chaos, terror and even death on a daily basis.

Ahmad Ibrahim al-Mughassil-The Mastermind of Khobar Towers Attack Captured

Ahmad Ibrahim al-Mughassil thought he was untouchable. For 19 years, he has been a wanted man, moving and hiding in the shadows of Iran, Syria and Lebanon. Armed with a disguise and what he thought was a sanctuary in Beirut, he enjoyed the protection of Hezbollah and the Iranians. But that all changed recently, when one of the most wanted Saudi Hezbollah terrorists was captured and spirited back to Saudi Arabia. Ahmad Ibrahim al-Mughassil was the military commander of Saudi Hezbollah (Hizbullah al-Hijaz). But what truly made him a dangerous terrorist was that he was a hands-on terrorist and part of the Iran’s proxy war against the United States.

On the south side of Damascus, tucked behind layers of shops, markets and hotels geared towards Iranian pilgrims is the Sayyeda Zeinab Mosque. This Iranian styled Mosque is where Ahmad al-Mughassil would meet and recruit terrorists for Saudi Hezbollah. Al-Mughassil would then make arrangements for the new recruits to travel to Iran or Lebanon for their military training.

Three years before the Khobar Towers attack, al-Mughassil began coordinating the casing and surveillance of numerous locations where Americans could be found in eastern Saudi Arabia. Two years after starting the casing and surveillance- the target was set. The cell began regular surveillance of Khobar Towers. For all practical purposes there was no difference between Hezbollah groups in Kuwait, Lebanon or the Hijaz. Iran helped all of them with funding, training, intelligence, logistics and the planning and execution of terrorist attacks.

On the evening of June 25, 1996, the terrorists made their final preparations before leaving a farm in Qatif. The target-another American barracks was located about 45 minutes by car to the south. Hani al-Sayegh would drive the Datsun “scout car” accompanied by Abdallah al-Jarash. Ahmad al-Mughassil would drive the Mercedes Benz truck bomb accompanied by Ali Ali-Houri. The get-away car, a white four-door Chevrolet Caprice, favored for its big engine and steel bumpers would be driven by Hussein al-Mughis.

The convoy of death soon turned onto Uhud Road before heading south on the Dhahran Jubail Expressway before exiting on Route 95. Now there was no turning back. Soon the three vehicles turned onto Old Abqaiq Road. The scout vehicle went ahead pulling into the public parking lot and signaled the coast was clear by flashing its high beams. Next the get-away car turned into the parking lot and Mughis positioned the Caprice to pick up its two passengers. With other terrorist groups the leader would never be anywhere near target. But Mughassil is not your ordinary leader. He slowly turned the Mercedes truck bomb into the parking lot and backed up as close to Building 131 as he could. These terrorists were not suicide bombers like the ones Hezbollah sent to attack the Marine Barracks and the French Paratroopers in Beirut. These Saudi Hezbollah terrorists wanted to escape to attack again.

Khobar Towers Roftop

Staff Sergeant Alfredo Guerrero, an Air Force Security Police Supervisor made his way to the rooftop of Building 131. Guerrero was there to check on the two Security Police officers manning their posts. While Guerrero spoke with Airman First Class Chris Wagar, Mughassil backed the truck bomb into place. The two terrorists jumped into the white Caprice and made their escaped to Bahrain, where they discarded their vehicles. Soon these terrorists would make their way to Iran.

The Security Police officers thought the truck and the actions of the terrorists looked suspicious and began evacuating the building. Within minutes the truck bomb detonated killing 19 Air Force members and injuring 372 Americans. The Iranians through their proxy-Saudi Hezbollah had struck America again.

For the last nineteen years, Ahmad Ibrahim Al-Mughassil, Ali Saed Bin El-Hoorie, Ibrahim Salih Mohammed Al-Yacoub, and Abdelkarim Hussein Mohammed Al-Nasser have been able to avoid justice. Today, three Saudi Hezbollah terrorists remain outside the grasps of justice for the bombing of Khobar Towers. But we can’t forget that Saudi Hezbollah undertook this attack at the behest of Iran. Whatever the reason for the capture of Ahmad Ibrahim Al-Mughassil is, it is always a good thing to remove one of the world’s most wanted terrorists. After all, we owe it to the families of those who lost their lives 19 years ago.

Next Generation of Al-Qaeda Terrorists

Twenty-seven years after the founding of Al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the current leader is hoping that one of Osama Bin Laden’s sons can provide some luster to the floundering terrorist group. With Hamza Bin Laden featured on the latest audio tape from Zawahiri, Al-Qaeda is hoping that a Bin Laden can return interest in Al-Qaeda. For years Al-Qaeda was at the pinnacle of terrorists groups in the Middle East. But years of being run to ground, its leadership decimated by drone strikes and special forces operations have all but relegated Al-Qaeda to survival mode. These days Al-Qaeda has to compete for recruits, money and media with ISIS.

On the recent audio tape Hamza called for lone wolf attacks in London, Washington, Paris, and Tel Aviv. While ISIS attacks in Syria and Iraq have captured the attention of the world, Al-Qaeda wants to refocus attention to attacks in these world capitals. This theme echoes what Ayman al-Zawahiri said in his memoir Knights Under the Banner of the Prophet” when he stated “Therefore, we must move the battle to the enemy’s grounds to burn the hands of those who ignite fire in our countries.”

One can’t imagine that Hamza has a huge following of lone wolves waiting for his word to strike. But there is no telling what some lone wolf will read or state is the reason for launching an attack. This gives lone wolves the ability to link back to Al-Qaeda. Hamza Bin Laden was the only son of Khairiah Saber, Osama Bin Laden’s favorite wife. Like his brother Saad, Hamza was groomed to one day walk in his father’s shoes. But like Saad, Hamza and some of the other Bin Laden children were moved to Iran for their safety after September 11th. There they became restricted guests of the Iranians living under house arrest for years after the fall of the Taliban. While most thought that Saad Bin Laden was destined for leadership in Al-Qaeda he was killed in a drone strike in 2009.

This was not the first time that Hamza has been used in Al-Qaeda propaganda. As a small boy, Hamza appeared in Al-Qaeda videos with his father and other Al-Qaeda fighters. In 2005, at the age of fourteen, Hamza appeared in an Al-Qaeda video entitled “The Mujahideen of Waziristan.” Dressed in a camouflage coat, a headband and armed with an AK-47,  Hamza stated, “we will fight the kafir forever!” Hamza has been raised at the elbows of Al-Qaeda terrorists and has fought with the Taliban.

Hamza does not have a huge following in the jihadi world but his last name still carries weigh. The old grizzled lions of Al-Qaeda have become fewer and older with much of the leadership either killed or captured. While hordes of recruits are flocking to ISIS in Syria and Iraq due to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s violence and slick media that has never been the plan for Al-Qaeda.   Al-Qaeda has always positioned itself to be the facilitator and vanguard for jihad. But for the last ten years, Al-Qaeda has been more in survival mode than being the vanguard of the jihadist movement. And this void has been filled more by ISIS and their lighting quick strikes across Syria and Iraq. To defeat Al-Qaeda and groups like ISIS we must know and understand the ideology and concepts that motivate and drive these terrorists.

One thing is clear to Ayman al-Zawahiri. For Al-Qaeda to remain relevant they must link from the past to the future if they are to have legitimacy in the modern jihadi world. Ayman al-Zawahiri is hoping that Hamza Bin Laden is that link between the two worlds. By using the next generation in Al-Qaeda’s propaganda communications Zawahiri is positioning his terrorist group for the future.

We have seen terrorist groups bring in family members. When Abdurajik Abubakar Janjalani, the founder of the Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines was killed, the leadership named his younger brother Khadaffy Janjalani as their leader. Khadaffy Janjalani was not his brother. He hadn’t fought the Russians in Afghanistan and lacked Abdurajik’s religious background, leadership qualities and connections. But he did possess one thing-the Janjalani name -the link to the past.

Another father son succession can be seen with the Haqqani Network. Jalaluddin Haqqani started fighting the Russians under Yunis Khalis and later formed his own group. Today his son, Sirajuddin, who leads the Haqqani Network, is more violent than his father ever was.  In August 2012, when Badruddin Haqqani, Siraj’s brother was killed by a drone strike several other brothers and cousins stepped forward and assumed his duties including Yahya Haqqani, Abdul Azziz Haqqani and Ahmad Jan. The Haqqani Network is like a dynasty. The Haqqanis have always kept a hand on the levers of power often integrating fighters with elements of the Taliban but always under their own commanders.

Al-Qaeda has problems and is seeking to link to the next generation of terrorists. Just having the last name doesn’t guarantee success in the world of jihad. But Hamza is someone to watch since he has grown up inside Al-Qaeda and has the right pedigree. Zawahiri has watched Hamza since he was a small boy and clearly is positioning him for the future.