(ISIS publishes a graph to boast about the scale of its victims)
German intelligence and its other European counterparts knew everything they needed to know about Muhammad Dalil to hold him in check – even his ISIS code name: Abu Yusuf al-Karrar. Nevertheless, on July 24, he was able to approach the gate of a music festival in the Bavarian town of Ansbach and, after being turned away, was left free to blow himself up outside a nearby wine bar and injure 15 people, some of them badly.
The Dalil episode strikingly illustrates the serious ineptitude of the agencies assigned to fighting terror in Europe, along with the rising graph of victims – 443 dead in Europe in the past three years.
The death toll from terror in 2014 stood at 4, two of them Israelis, Emanuel and Miriam Riva; in 2015, the figure shot up to 267. In the first seven months of 2016, there were 172 fatalities – i.e. an average of 24.5 per month.
The three-year total of injured victims has moreover reached 3.000.
The case of Muhammad Dalil serve as an object lesson, from which Europe’s counter-terrorism agencies could learn from this and other past experiences of this kind what not to do and the high importance of tightening operational intelligence and discipline in their ranks.
His resumé is instructive.
Starting his career as a terrorist in al-Qaeda, Dalil fought the Americans in Iraq for years in the second half of the 2000s. When the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011, he slipped across the border and joined the Islamist Nusra Front.
His combat experience in Iraq jump-started his rise in the ranks until he was put in charge of Nusra’s unit for terror attacks on he Syrian army. His specialty was rigging large incendiary bombs, a more sophisticated and powerful version of firebombs.
Dalil soon made himself one of the most wanted men for President Bashar Assad’s security agencies.
As part of Assad’s effort to show he was fighting radical Islamist terrorists – and not his own political opponents – Assad instructed his intelligence agency to turn the Muhammad Dalil file over to Western intelligence services.
In 2013, Dalil made another move – from Nusra Front to ISIS, swearing allegiance to its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
At the end of 2015, he was injured by shrapnel in a battle. French Muslim doctors employed by ISIS advised him that he could only save his life by getting admitted to a hospital in Germany for the best treatment available. The French doctors prepared him for the journey and ISIS supplied with false passports.
Muhammad Dalil crossed the border from Syria to Turkey and thence to Bulgaria by joining the flow of Syrian migrants. From there, it was a short journey to a German hospital.
The point is that German intelligence, having identified him from the Syrian tip-off, knew who he was and kept track of his movements along this journey. Still, after he was given the best care at the German hospital and recovered, he was allowed to set up residence at Ansbach and apply for a permit to settle in Germany.
From his Ansbach apartment, he was soon hard at work disseminating ISIS doctrine across Europe’s social networks. When no one interfered to stop this, he turned to action.
Using his Syrian experience in building large incendiary bombs, he turned his apartment into a bomb-making workshop. But realizing that it was too dangerous to store the large amounts of fuel needed in the apartment and fearing the smells would alert the neighbors’ suspicions, he decided to switch production from large bombs to explosive devices designed for suicide attacks.
According to debkafile’s counterterrorism sources, Dalil began building these bombs at the end of April 2016, roughly three months before he actually set one off outside the Ansbach wine bar.
Meanwhile, he kept on renewing his application for a permanent status and extending his stay in Germany each time it was denied. Two months prior to the attack, German intelligence and security agencies conducted a search of his apartment.
It is hard to understand how the searchers found nothing, although three bombs were hidden there in various stages of production.
The terrorist timed the finish of his work for July 24, the date of the Ansbach rock concert. His plan was to detonate a bomb in the audience of 2,500 young fans. Because he hadn’t bought a ticket, the security guard at the gate and the ushers turned him away, but none were suspicious enough to force him to surrender to a search of his knapsack, which in fact contained the bomb he blew up shortly after.
There is no doubt that there are more Mohammad Dalils at large across Europe. His case shows that coming under the authorities’ radar may not alone be enough to hold these jihadist terrorists back from their vicious rampages.