PJ Media, by Patrick Poole, April 22, 2015:
France nearly averted a major terror attack in Paris over the weekend after the suspect inadvertently shot himself in the leg and police discovered plans in his car to attack churchgoers leaving church on Sunday, news reports this morning indicate.
However, the unnamed suspect was already known to French intelligence agencies and had previously been subject to police surveillance, making this yet another case of what I have termed “known wolf” terrorism.
The New York Times reports:
A 24-year-old computer science student suspected of planning an imminent attack on at least one church and of involvement in the murder of a woman was taken into custody in Paris over the weekend, the French authorities said on Wednesday.
The student was arrested on Sunday, and the police found heavy weapons, handguns, ammunition and bulletproof vests in his home and car, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said at a news conference on Wednesday.
Mr. Cazeneuve did not identify the student, nor the church or churches that he was believed to be targeting.
“Detailed documents were also found, establishing without any doubt that the individual was planning an imminent attack, most likely against one or two churches,” Mr. Cazeneuve said. “That attack was avoided on Sunday morning.”
Le Monde said the man had settled in France in 2009. Cazeneuve said he had been under surveillance since 2014 when he made it known he wished to go to Syria to join jihadis there. He disappeared in February this year and was found to have spent a week in Turkey. He was arrested, briefly held, and given a warning on his return, but his profile was not thought to justify further action beyond circulating a security warning.
“Our country, like other European countries, is facing a terrorist threat that is unusual in its nature and size. Our vigilance and our determination are absolute and constant,” the minister added.
But events just in the past month have repeatedly shown that their vigilance is far from “absolute and constant.”
As I reported here at PJ Media back in January, the Kouachi brothers who massacred 11 people and wounded another 11 in an attack on the satirical Charlie Hebdo newspaper were already known to French authorities.
Cherif Kouachi had been arrested and sentenced to prison back in 2005 for his role in helping send fighters to Iraq to attack coalition soldiers. At the time of the attack, he was on both the US and UK terror watch lists. It was later reported that Said Kouachi had been subject to surveillance orders since 2011 after he had returned from terror training in Yemen, but that the surveillance on Said had been stopped in June 2014 – just six months before the attack – because he had deemed no longer dangerous by security services, and the surveillance had been stopped at the end of 2013 on Cherif because authorities believed he had disengaged from “violent extremism.”
Then again, as I reported here in February, a man who stabbed three French police officers standing guard outside a synagogue in Nice had just been deported from Turkey back to France a week before the attack because he was believed to be en route to join ISIS in Syria.
French authorities are not alone in these “known wolf” failures. When I first identified the “known wolf terrorism” phenomenon back in October, it was after two separate terror attacks in Canada in less than a week by two individuals already known to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and both had their passports revoked for fear they would leave the country for Syria to join terror groups there.
I noted too at the time that virtually all of the American Islamic terror cases since 9/11 involved “known wolf” attackers.
Here’s my reporting on “known wolf terrorism” syndrome:
Dec. 15, 2014: Sydney Hostage Taker Another Case of ‘Known Wolf’ Syndrome
In January, I gave briefing on Capitol Hill sponsored by the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) on the “Known Wolf” terrorism:
And in February I conducted an interview with my friend and colleague Erick Stakelbeck on the phenomenon:
Even the New York Times picked up the term in March, if only to try to explain away the failures of law enforcement. The term was also used when London Mayor Boris Johnson slammed the UK Home Secretary for dropping surveillance orders on Mohammed Emwazi, who has been featured in ISIS videos beheading Western prisoners.
Even well-paid US terrorism consultants are trying to cash in by suddenly discovering the “known wolf” terrorism problem:
The Soufan Group, a New York think tank, said a better term for “lone wolves” would be “known wolves”, given how many are already known to Western intelligence agencies before they strike.
“These individuals, acting alone or in small groups … have been on the radar of various agencies and organisations, highlighting the difficulty of effectively monitoring and managing people at the nexus of criminality and terrorism,” it said in a report this week.
For the Soufan Group, the most serious threat came from people with known associations with radicals and a string of past offenses.
What makes these many instances of “known wolf” terrorism so tragic is that it is never a case of the subject falling off the radar of authorities, or escaping surveillance. In each and every case, they have been deliberately removed from the radar after clearly mistakenly being removed from law enforcement radar, or more amazingly, authorities have aware[ness] of the threat and did nothing out of indifference or incompetence.
As the case in Paris on Sunday shows, we can expect the “known wolf” terror problem by Western intelligence and law enforcement authorities to continue.