Tags: ISIS/Islamic State | War on Terrorism | isis | underground | network | paris | terror

WSJ: Underground Network Helping Terrorists Operate

By    |   Friday, 30 Jan 2015 07:33 PM

The Islamic State (ISIS) is believed to be operating an underground network that may have helped terrorist Amedy Coulibaly carry out his terror attack on a Paris kosher grocery store earlier this month and helped his wife escape to Syria, even though there isn't evidence that Coulibaly took his orders from the group.

"It's a new operating mode," Daniel Fellous, a French attorney who specializes in terrorism cases, told The Wall Street Journal.

Because of the network, Coulibaly's widow, Frenchwoman Hayat Boumeddiene was able to make it to an ISIS checkpoint in northern Syria and slip through. Officials say the militants were told to give her special treatment, as the same day she crossed the border, her husband started his terror spree.

Authorities are seeking Boumeddiene, who a counterterrorism officials described as "a high-value asset — because she knows a lot about the preparation of the attack," said a counterterrorism official.

Western counterterrorism experts say that the existence of the network means that even people who are not specifically members of a terror group can still make use of its resources and protection.

And in Coulibaly's case, there is no evidence ISIS gave him his marching orders, even though he pledged his allegiance to the group in a video.

But still, he was able to tap into the network, which started growing with al-Qaida but now is reforming around the Islamic State.

Court documents that years before Coulibaly's attacks, the network was sending French nationals to fight against American troops in Afghanistan, but the French thought they had dismantled the network.

However, last July, nine people were convicted in a French court on charges of assisting an Afghan jihadist network, and police believe that some in the group had expertise they used to help Coulibaly.

The network reportedly stretches across several continents and into Italy, Turkey, and more. During the trial, one of the suspects, Yassine Bouzid, acknowledged that he helped militants reach Afghanistan, and police recently questioned him about the Coulibaly attacks.

Another of the people in the July 2014 case, Mohamed Belhoucine, is suspected of helping Boumeddiene reach Syria.

Authorities say Coulibaly and Belhoucine were in the French prison in Villepinte at the same time, although it is not clear if they met there, and once Coulibaly was released from Villepinte last March, he reunited with his wife and began stockpiling weapons for hisParis atttack.

Part of his plans were to send her to Syria, which would put her out of the reach of French authorities, and investigators say Belhoucine helped pave the way by using his brother, Mehdi, as a person with no criminal record to escort her through without arousing suspicions.

Boumeddiene's special treatment is a sign the Islamic State has plans for her, a counterterrorism official said, noting that she is "set to be used for propaganda purposes later on."

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The Islamic State (ISIS) is believed to be operating an underground network that may have helped terrorist Amedy Coulibaly carry out his terror attack on a Paris kosher grocery store earlier this month...
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2015-33-30
Friday, 30 Jan 2015 07:33 PM
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