Salim Benghalem, a Frenchman, Is ISIS’ European Mastermind

Europe is under Islamic terror assault at the average rate of one every less than two days – counting the seven violent assaults perpetrated in France, Germany and Britain in 12 days, starting with Nice on July 14, where 84 victims died, moving on to a suicide bombing in Ansbach in Bavaria, Germany, on July 24, which left 15 people injured, and culminating (for now) in the murder of a French priest at a suburban church in Normandy on July 26.
The hand behind this upsurge of violence, which is assuming the proportions of a war, is named here by DEBKA Weekly intelligence and counter-terrorism sources as Amn al-Kharji, who is head of the Islamic State’s secretive external operations wing of its shadowy chain of command.
Up until now, Western intelligence services used ISIS as the generic term for any reluctantly admitted jihadist attacks in any European city, such as Paris, Brussels, Istanbul, Nice, Munich, Wurzburg or Ansbach. But no high-profile ISIS executives were ever named for fear of impairing their efforts to plant agents or informers inside the murderous group’s operational ranks in Europe and the Middle East.
These efforts have so far got nowhere – mainly due to the Islamic State’s exceptional operational flexibility and unpredictability.
Amn-al-Kharji customarily switches operational methods around at high speed, so that the modus operandi he employed In Paris, for instance, is not repeated in Brussels and Istanbul, where he runs large terror networks of around 25 members each: They include helpers, lookouts, drivers, safe house administrators and operatives ready to lay down their lives for jihad in suicide attacks.
After catching security agents by surprise with a massive truck attack in the French Riviera town of Nice on July 24, Amn al-Kharji reverted to lone and small-group strikes by operatives or teams, designating the perpetrators “ISIS soldiers.”
Adding to the unpredictability, some of the "soldiers” are willing to take their own initiative using any weapons to hand.
The weeks and months ahead are likely to see more terror outrages at unknown locations, executed with assorted weaponry by unforeseen methods.
Our sources identify the man behind the alias of Amn-al-Kharji as a Frenchman who goes by the underground codename of Abu Sulayman al-Faransi.
Under his command, as head of European operations, is another Frenchman, Salim Benghalem, who converted to Islam under his original name of Fabien Clain and was responsible for introducing Islamic terror to Germany in the last ten days.
Salim Benghalem also picked the targets of the Paris raids last November 2015, which left 132 people dead and hundreds wounded, and the Nice truck attack, which murdered 84 victims on July 14, Bastille Day.
This week, he orchestrated the first known jihadist attack on a Christian place of prayer in Europe.
This time, the terrorists were armed with knives and took hostages, including two nuns, before cutting the throat of an 86-year old priest and badly injuring another hostage. They were shot dead by French police.
This attack was not averted in time, although one of the knifemen was on the French watch list of terrorists and let out of jail with an electronic tag.
Benghalem and his "soldiers” are clearly able to stay a step or two ahead of Western counterterrorism agencies.
One example may prove to be the 18-year-old German-Iranian Ali Sonboly’s shooting attack on the Olympia mall in Munich. The Bavarian police insisted it was a solo operation, planned and executed by Sonboly, a mental case who killed himself after slaying 9 people.
This theory was countered by the discovery that, hours before the attack, the shooter lured his victims to their deaths by a bogus offer posted on Facebook under the false name of a German girl, ‘Selina Akim’, of free meals at the McDonald’s branch opposite the Olympia mall.
This was the first use of Facebook to trap victims of terror. It hardly stands to reason that a lone killer would have been sophisticated enough to invent this novel method of mass murder on his own. It is far more likely, when taken with other evidence, that Sonboly was the instrument of the jihadist organization’s exceptional capacity for forward planning, compared with security forces’ efforts at prevention.

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