French intelligence failures over the Charlie Hebdo terror attack will not be upstaged by the Unity March of millions that President Francois Hollande leads in Paris Sunday, Jan. 11, to dramatize the free world’s protest against Islamist terror. The case of Hayat Boumeddiene, the 26-year old wife of the terrorist Amedy Coulibaly who murdered four Jews in cold blood at the kosher supermarket, stands out.
Friday, Jan. 9, after the police assault on the store, French security sources reported she had escaped with a stream of rescued hostages and reached Syria via Spain and Istanbul.
In fact, she never was in the Paris store.
The female terrorist had skipped France and arrived in Syria on Jan. 1-2, more than a week before the wave of terror first struck Paris at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
This could have been discovered simply by examining the records at French, Spanish and Turkish border posts.
So did French security authorities plant a cock-and-bull story with deliberate intent? Or did they miss another cue after omitting to crack down on the three men with known jihadist connections before they struck?
Western security sources have been playing up the three terrorists’ connection to the Yemeni headquarters of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). That is because, if ISIS was able to pull the strings for multiple terror in the heart of Europe, the air campaign that the US-led coalition of 20 countries including France is conducting in Iraq and Syria would look pretty tame. And its leader Abu Baqr al-Baghdad would be laughing.
But was it really ISIS or AQAP which set up the three attacks which claimed 17 lives in three days?
That is the big question.
Said and Cherif Kouachi told French television shortly before they were shot dead that they belonged to Yemen Al Qaeda, whereas Coulibaly claimed he was acting for ISIS.
This apparent contradiction raises the scary suggestion that the two murderous Islamic groups may have collaborated for the first time to hit France. That scenario assumes an even more ominous dimension in the light of the chatter picked up Sunday by US intelligence indicating that all Al Qaeda’s branches are preparing to follow up the Paris operations with a major campaign of terror in Europe.
Boumediene’s arrival in Syria ahead of the Paris attacks appears to part of a comprehensive plan for setting up a command and control center for this campaign or, possibly, to prepare safe asylum for the gunmen who manage to get away. If that is so, then the center of this campaign would be situated on ISIS – not AQAP – turf.
The sight of many thousands of gendarmes and security officers rushing around in combat gear to chase the female terrorist may have helped reassure a frightened population, who were not to know the guardians of security were on a fool’s errand.
But the truth was that France’s external security service (DGSE), anti-terror police branches and border authorities, who were supposed to operate in concert, fell down on the job and revealed their weakness to the enemy. Homegrown and foreign jihadis were shown to have established safe exit routes for reaching the Islamic battlegrounds of the Middle East and returning home – well trained, heavily armed and filled with hatred for the societies which bred them.
Underground jihadist networks spent months undiscovered by the internal security service (DGSI) in the setting up of complicated multi-site operations, like the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and the Jewish supermarket.
And the Groupe d’Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale (GIGN) took too long to run them to earth and eliminate them.
After murdering the top journalists and cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo, the two Kouachi brothers emerged from the building packing two submachine guns, but none of the dozens of armed police outside was able to cut them down.
And finally, thousands of French police and soldiers from various units put to siege the print works outside Dammartin-en-Goele, where Said and Cherif Kouachi were holed up for hours, with nearly 100,000 security officers mobilized across France. Still, they hesitated to break in.
All this provides fodder for the trainers to inspire the next generation of jihadi terrorists for action that is guaranteed to win them prime time on all the world’s television screens.