J.J. Goldberg

After Brussels Bust, France Nabs 'Jihad Recruiters'

By J.J. Goldberg

  • Print
  • Share Share
20 Minutes
Mehdi Nemmouche

French police have arrested four people suspected of recruiting would-be jihadist fighters in Paris and southern France, apparently for training and combat in the Syrian civil war, the British edition of the International Business Times reported today.

The arrests were announced by French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve. They come a day after the announcement on Sunday that French police had arrested a suspect in the May 24 terrorist shootings at the Jewish Museum of Brussels in Belgium.

The suspect in the Brussels attack, a French-born Muslim named Mehdi Nemmouche, is alleged to have received training and combat experience in Syria with a militant anti-Assad insurgent force, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

Nemmouche’s arrest has touched off fears among European, American and Israeli security officials that the Syrian civil war might be breeding a new generation of young Islamist radicals with Western roots — and Western citizenship — who could return home prepared to carry out new terrorist attacks. Intelligence sources told Haaretz military analyst Amos Harel that an estimated 1,200 European and North American Muslims are fighting with militant groups in Syria at any given time.

The Brussels attack left three victims dead and a fourth reportedly clinging to life. Earlier reports had said the fourth victim died in the hospital the day after the attack.

Nemmouche was arrested in the southern French city of Marseille on Friday, May 30, carrying a cache of weapons that matched those appearing in the museum video of the attack. He was also carrying a computer thumb drive that features a voice, believed to be his, claiming responsibility for the Brussels attack and vowing more.

Some compare blowback fears from the Syrian civil war to the aftermath of the anti-Soviet insurgency in Afghanistan in the early 1980s. The Afghan mujahideen, sponsored by the United States, ended up giving rise to Al Qaeda and similar groups that eventually turned their weapons against America and the West. Unlike those fighters, though, the Syrian insurgency is said to be producing jihadists with American and European citizenship who can cross borders and plan their attacks more easily than the earlier generation.

Haaretz military reporter Amos Harel writes in a news analysis today that the background of the Brussels suspect “confirms the West’s worst fears” about the Syrian connection and the possibility of blowback:

Western intelligence services believe that more than 1,200 European and North American Muslims are fighting there at any given moment, in an effort to topple the regime. Many are fighting in the ranks of organizations affiliated with Al-Qaida, and some return home afterward to continue their jihad.

Terrorism investigators in the West say that Western Muslims who join jihadi terror groups generally go through four stages: Growing religiosity; a personal or economic crisis that the young man attributes to discrimination against Muslims; ideological radicalization under the influence of a local preacher; and, finally, enlistment in a terror organization in either central Asia or the Middle East. That’s what happened in the past in Afghanistan and Iraq, and that’s what is happening now in Syria, the current principal theater of jihadi operations.

This process runs like a scarlet threat among the terrorists who perpetrated huge attacks in Madrid and London during the previous decade. When these young men return to the West, they seek out new targets to attack: Crowded public places, sites affiliated with the United States and Israel, or Jewish centers. For them, solidarity with the Palestinian struggle is integrated into the larger war against the West.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: mujahideen, Mehdi Nemmouche, Marseille, Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, International Business Times, Brussels Jewish Museum, Haaretz, Bernard Cazeneuve, Amos Harel, Al Qaeda

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.