ISIS’ Black Sea Network Scattered Ahead of Major Terror Drive for New Year Holiday
One of the Islamic State’s most ambitious plots for a major terror offensive during the coming holidays in West and East Europe may have been foiled by the breakup of a brand-new network put in place in three Black Sea locations.
It was there that the jihadists were discovered revving up for an organized campaign of terror, over and above the lone-wolf attacks perpetrated by individual jihadis, like Abdul Razah Ali Artan, the 18-year old Somali student, who ran over and slashed 11 people at Ohio State University on Tuesday, Nov. 28. ISIS later acknowledged the Somali as one of its “soldiers.”
Another terror conspiracy was aborted when the French authorities rounded up seven suspects, who were plotting coordinated attacks during the Christmas holidays in Paris and Marseille under the direction of senior ISIS figures in Syria.
In separate statements, French and Belgian anti-terror officials announced they had identified an ISIS figure directing operations against both countries.
Then, in Germany, a domestic intelligence agency employee was identified this week as an Islamist and arrested for spreading radical propaganda on the Internet. He was also suspected of planning to explode a bomb at the agency’s central office in Cologne.
But the most elaborate of these terrorist projects for the coming holidays was uncovered earlier this month in the planning stage, according to DEBKA Weekly‘s exclusive intelligence and counterterrorism sources. The network had three branches in Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital, its Caucasian breakaway province of Abhazia and Istanbul, Turkey.
These launching pads around the Black Sea were the clandestine regional headquarters, the largest ever uncovered outside the Middle East, for orchestrating coordinated strikes on both sides of the European continent, including a mega-attack in Russia.
It was Iraqi intelligence which picked up the first lead. Baghdad had mounted an intense manhunt for high-profile jihadist wire-pullers, fearing terrorist disruption of the Iraqi military offensive to retake Mosul from the Islamic State. Earlier this month, Iraqi suspicions fell on a man who arrived in the Kurdish Republic’s capital of Irbil from Tbilisi via Turkey. He introduced himself as Hamid Nasser, a businessman. A round-the-clock surveillance team caught the “businessman” from Georgia making contact with ISIS intelligence agents.
At that point, the Iraqis brought US and other Western agencies into the case.
The suspect was kept under close surveillance for a few days. When he tried to leave Irbil, Iraqi and Kurdish officers pounced and arrested him. Under questioning, Hamad Nasser broke down and confessed he belonged to ISIS. He was then given the option of going home and working as a double agent, in return for clemency and political asylum in a Western country.
The subterfuge worked. The information he passed back to his handlers led to the exposure of the Islamic State’s entire Black Sea network. According to our sources, most of its members were rounded up, although some got away, including the leader, who goes under the name of “Karatilus.” His real identity is unknown.