A French special court in Paris considering the case of a group of eight Islamic suspects accused of using crime to aid Al Qaeda. The eight are suspected of carrying out on robberies in 2004 and 2005 to serve the cause of radical Islam primarily in Iraq.
A symbiosis has always existed between criminality and terrorism. For the criminal the ability to wrap his exploits in a political banner provides respect and rehabilitation. Revolutionary theorists such as Mikhail Bakunin felt that those on the margins of society could make excellent revolutionaries, both because of their psychology and their vocational training. It is therefore not surprising to see this development. In 2008, in France, other radical Islamists were found guilty of financing their cause by racketeering and prostitution.
The group currently on trial is comprised of two Frenchmen, a French Algerian, an Algerian and four Tunisians. According to the indictment, the leaders had established contact with Al Qaeda members abroad in Syria, Algeria and in Turkey where they discussed attacks in France. The police claim to have found a complete arms cachet consisting of sticks of dynamite, handguns, two assault rifles walkie-talkies and police uniforms and body armor.
The gang unsuccessfully tried to hijack an armored car carrying cash but by blowing up the side of the vehicle, but the breach that resulted was too narrow. The gang did succeed in holding up a postal vehicle carrying official documents from the government printing office.
The ringleader of the gang is Ouassini Cherifi, nicknamed “the Turk” a 36-year-old French-Algerian who was sentenced in 2002 to a five-year prison term for dealing with false passports that were used in terrorist activity. Upon his release, he acquired a gourmet restaurant that served as a cover for his activities, notably recruiting British nationals to fight for jihad in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to the French police Cherifi was prepared to die as a martyr, but did not want to take the usual suicide bomb route and instead sought his ticket to Islamic paradise by fulfilling a financial mission on behalf of the cause.
Another prominent member is Farid Boukemiche, a 34-year-old French Algerian who spent three years in a British prison on terrorist charges before trying to claim political asylum. When Britain refused to grant him such status, he moved back to France and opened up a café called Chat that has hosted British Islamists.
In both cases, we can witness the problematic development of prisons serving as recruitment and training grounds for Islamic radicalism.
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