by Ian Driscoll
The brutal murder of four innocent people, 3 of whom were children, outside of a Jewish school shocked all of France when the news was broadcast two days ago. Originally thought to be the work of white supremacists, it’s now claimed that one man, acting alone, carried out the killings, in the name of Al-Qaeda.
It’s emerged recently that the man supposedly claiming affiliation with the infamous terrorist organization was jailed for some time in the southern province of Kandahar, Afghanistan, accused of manufacturing bombs for the insurgency. We’re told that he escaped from prison, with the help of the Taliban, and subsequently applied to join the French Foreign Legion. Why he would have chosen to join the Legion is unexplained; certainly an odd choice for an escaped prisoner of war working on behalf of Islamic extremists. He was apparently rejected due to psychological instability.
We’re also told that the French intelligence service, the DCRI, had been monitoring Merah for years, due to frequent trips he made to “militant zones”. Merah visited Waziristan, Pakistan, in 2010 and 2011. Why an escaped terrorist would not have been more than monitored is yet another question left unanswered so far, causing some to speculate as to whether or not Merah may in fact be a CIA asset.
Though by now the picture painted of Merah by international media is one of a radicalized Islamic fundamentalist, bent on avenging the Palestinians killed in Israeli missile attacks, numerous facts pertaining to the murders simply don’t square with that image. For instance, Merah was tracked down (we’re told) after contacting his first victim, Imad Ibn Ziaten, a Sargent in the French military and a fellow Muslim, via computer. Merah, who had identified himself to the Sargent as a soldier, subsequently shot Ziaten and dumped his body behind a Jewish school.
Four days later, Merah is said to have fatally shot two paratroopers, both of them of North African origin, and both of them Muslim.
And despite a record of juvenile crime, Merah was never imagined to be a radical (or even deeply committed) Muslim by his friends and neighbors. The lawyer who defended him during his early trials stated that “[Merah] had not given the impression of being a fanatic and had never talked about Islam to him.”
A friend of Merah’s identified only as “Samir” stated that they had served together in the army and Merah had “never said anything” to him regarding Islam in any context.
The same friend said that Merah was a frequent patron of loud dance clubs. Merah had been seen in one such club in Toulouse only a week prior to the shootings. An additional acquaintance of Merah’s told the BBC that he had run into Merah at a rai (which is a popular kind of Arab dance music) night club “around the time of the first shooting.” He described Merah’s personality:
“He’s a waster, a layabout, a loner. Not a serious guy… Sometimes he had his hair long, sometimes short, sometimes red.”
Not the typical portrait of an Islamic extremist.
Meanwhile, some have commented on how fortuitous these horrific murders may turn out to be for Nicholas Sarkozy, the embattled right-wing incumbent in France’s upcoming Presidential elections, set to take place in almost exactly one month.
Sarkozy, who is currently trailing in the polls to his main rival, Socialist Party candidate Francois Hollande, is likely to benefit greatly from this tragedy, as the campaigns of all of the French Presidential candidates have been suspended until the situation is resolved. Of course, this leaves Sarkozy as the sole Presidential presence on French and international TV, allowing him to strike a pose as the stalwart leader, intent on bringing the perpetrator swiftly to justice. The Guardian writes:
Crucial to Sarkozy is the personal turnaround in his image. He had been fighting a bitter and difficult battle for re-election, but instantly suspended his campaign after the school shooting…For Sarkozy, the shootings could mark a return to his old image of Supercop, France’s one-time tough-talking interior minister and head of police. But that raises pressure to deliver a faultless police operation. It was reported that Sarkozy personally phoned the heads of the elite squads, and he turned up at the barracks near the gunman’s besieged flat during the stand-off.
Additionally, the shootings may well generate sympathy for the Jewish community that could be channeled into support for the Israeli march to war with Iran. Merah (we’re told) is on record as having said that the killings were carried out as revenge for the death of Palestinian children at the hands of the Israelis. Could this be groundwork for the eventual “discovery” that the alleged Al-Qaeda gunman has ties to Hezbollah or Iran?
Mossad officials are already jumping the gun. A former Mossad chief, Danny Yatom, said that “if it turns out to have been a terror attack rather than a hate crime, he believes Iran or its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah are likely suspects.” How he could know that is anyone’s guess.
It seems clear that there’s more to this story than we’ve heard. Time will tell whether or not Merah turns out to have government connections as so many supposed independent terrorist operatives have in the past.