Wasn’t the Muslim terrorist in the massive Mumbai Islamic attack an American (here)? It’s all of a piece. Muslims the world over are training to kill and defeat the West with Obama’s “peace partner,” the Taliban.
France’s prime minister fended off suggestions Friday that anti-terrorism authorities fell down on the job in monitoring a radical Islamist who gunned down children, paratroopers and a rabbi in a wave of killings that revolted the country. Merah, who claimed allegiance to al-Qaida died Thursday during a gunfight with police following a 32-hour standoff outside his apartment in the southwestern city of Toulouse.
By Associated Press, Published: March 24
DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan — Dozens of French Muslims are training with the Taliban in northwestern Pakistan, raising fears of future attacks following the shooting deaths of seven people in southern France allegedly by a man who spent time in the region, Pakistani intelligence officials said Saturday.
Authorities are investigating whether Mohamed Merah, the Frenchman of Algerian descent who is suspected of killing three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi and three French paratroopers in Toulouse this month, was among the training group, the officials said.
Merah was killed in a dramatic gunfight with police Thursday after a 32-hour standoff at his Toulouse apartment. The 23-year-old former auto body worker traveled twice to Afghanistan in 2010 and to Pakistan in 2011, and said he trained with al-Qaida in the Pakistani militant stronghold of Waziristan.
Approximately 85 Frenchmen have been training with the Pakistani Taliban in the North Waziristan tribal area for the past three years, according to the intelligence officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. Most of the men have dual nationality with France and North African countries.The Frenchmen operate under the name Jihad-e-Islami and are being trained to use explosives and other weapons at camps near the town of Miran Shah and in the Datta Khel area, the officials said. They are led by a French commander who goes by the name Abu Tarek. Five of the men returned to France in January 2011 to find new recruits, according to the officials. It’s unclear whether Merah was among that group.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy promised a crackdown on French citizens found to have trained in terror camps abroad.
“Anyone who goes abroad to follow ideological courses that lead to terrorism will be criminally punished. The response will be prison,” he said in a campaign speech Saturday.
A senior French official close to the investigation into the shootings told The Associated Press on Friday that despite Merah’s claims of al-Qaida links, there was no sign he had “trained or been in contact with organized groups or jihadists.”
A militant commander, Ahmed Marwat, claimed in a phone call with the AP on Saturday that Merah was affiliated with the Pakistani Taliban in Waziristan, but provided no details. Marwat said he was part of the Jundullah wing of the Pakistani Taliban.
The Pakistani Taliban, which is closely allied with al-Qaida, has carried out hundreds of attacks in Pakistan over the past several years that have killed thousands of people. Taliban leaders say they want to oust the U.S.-backed government and install a hardline Islamist regime. They also have international jihadi ambitions and trained the Pakistani-American who tried to detonate a car bomb in New York City’s Times Square in 2010.
The main sanctuary for the Pakistani Taliban is the restive tribal region along the Afghan border, especially North and South Waziristan. Despite a large military offensive in South Waziristan in 2009, the government has very little control over the area.
Western officials have been concerned for years about Muslim militants with European citizenship visiting northwestern Pakistan, possibly training for missions that could include terror attacks in Europe where they would act as “lone wolves” or on the orders of others. In 2010 alone, dozens were believed to be there.
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