Thirty-two hours of fame: how the strange story of Mohamed Merah does not add up
By Richard Cottrell
Contributing writer for End the Lie
The lone avenging angel of death aura surrounding Mohamed Merah is beginning to wear thin, even in the French mainstream media.
It is extremely doubtful if Merah had anything to do with the tragic murders of the Jewish rabbi, his two children and another small girl, as well as the attacks on the off-duty paratroopers with North African and Caribbean backgrounds.
The man who tossed a really big spanner in the works is the retired former director of DCRI (La Direction centrale du renseignement intérieur, the French internal counter-espionage agency).
M. Yves Bonnet informed the main daily paper in Toulouse, Depeche de Midi, “He [Merah] was known to the DCRI. Not especially because he was an Islamist, but because he had a correspondent in domestic intelligence.”
And then he added for good measure, “When you have a correspondent, it’s not completely innocent. This is not trivial.”
Correspondent is spook–speak for handler.
M. Bonnet’s eventual successor as head of the agency, Bernard Squarcini, was forced into the admission that during the prolonged siege of the apartment where Merah was holing up, he asked to talk with a local DCRI agent – the “correspondent” – that he obviously knew.
Through the fog of lies and confusion it emerges that this is a female agent with a background in North Africa, like Merah.
Whether the request was granted remains a mystery, but the very fact that this singular item of information is now in the public domain casts considerable doubt on the entire presentation of a radicalized Islamist on a shooting spree.
Merah never proclaimed associations with Al Qaeda (and a French official said that there was no evidence of such a link), but given his secret service assignments that we encounter in a moment, some kind of cover story such as that would offer credence during his voyages abroad.
Note: Al Qaeda is the western-manufactured guerrilla force armed to fight the Russian invaders of Afghanistan in the 1980’s. Their adherents later fought on NATO’s side against the Serbs in the Balkan War. Richard Holbrooke, the chief US envoy in the Balkans, called this arrangement ‘the pact with the devil.’
What does emerge is the picture of a pliable young man with an Algerian background signed up by French intelligence to spy on suspected activists and their connections with potential troublemakers abroad.
Mohamed Merah was portrayed as a loner and sometime petty criminal, so it is strange how he managed to assemble the funds for trips to Pakistan and Afghanistan, not to mention Israel, Turkey and Jordan.
Interestingly, a rather unusual source, the Italian neocon, pro-Israeli newspaper Il Foglio, owned and funded by a fiercely anti-Islamist recusant communist called Giuliano Ferrara, published reports that French intelligence paid for Merah’s visit to Israel in 2010.
Given the paper that might not be sympathetic to this kind of information, the story should be taken with some confidence.
At the time these trips took place, Merah was supposed to be a monitored terrorist suspect. It is more likely that unbeknown to himself, he was already being profiled with an identi-kit personality that would fit a deranged terrorist as the French presidential election campaign moved into high gear almost two years later.
Nicholas Sarkozy himself gave the game away, in a throw-away remark largely ignored at the time but bearing much significance now. Namely, that the authorities ‘knew’ who they were looking for. Sarkozy’s style is always to blurt and bluster first and regret it afterwards.
This is a classic instance that raises serious problems. The police did not ‘know’ who shot at the soldiers but were in no doubts at all after the attack at the school. The first soldier was killed on March 11th, another two on March 15th. Another five days passed before the children and the rabbi teacher were killed on the 19th.
Another peculiar nugget came on March 17th when the police admitted they had uncovered Merah’s IP code. Gosh, what a triumph for intensive detection work.
Aside from the fact that anyone with fairly modest equipment can do the same, nothing was then done to intercept Merah – clearly the chief suspect in the murder of the soldiers – from wreaking further havoc.
This is known in the intel world as LIHOP, ‘let it happen on purpose.’
From one perspective, better evidence of some agency steering an individual such as Merah would be hard to discover. I have studied many examples for my forthcoming new book on the Gladio secret armies, but unquestionably the case of Mohamed Merah rates as an absolute classic.
Bernard Squarcini, the head of DCRI, painted himself into a splendid corner by insisting that his people in the Midi-Pyrenees branch of the organization listed Merah as among a handful of individuals with Jihadist sympathies.
Are we to believe that he was unaware that this arch suspect was reporting directly to one of his officers?
The picture grows murkier. Il Foglio also claimed that Merah was working for the French foreign intelligence service DSGE. Of course this is bizarre if it is true, as it probably is.
Two sets of spooks are paying the same man as informant and neither knows what the other side is doing. This is not uncommon in the intelligence hall of mirrors, witness the football scrums between competing intelligence services in the US and the UK. But in this case it may have cost an innocent man his life.
Much has been made of the impressive armory that Merah is supposed to have stored at his apartment. This included we are told three Colt .45 pistols, a 9mm Sten submachine gun, a Kalashnikov assault rifle, some kind of a pump-action shotgun and a Colt .357 Python revolver.
Nothing about the story so far adds up. If Merah was a known and listed Jihadist, then why was he not picked up on the grounds of owning such a suspicious arsenal? How come the police did not know the address of this suspicious figure?
Since it is admitted that Merah had a secret service handler, was he supplied with weapons by that same source? Or were the weapons planted after he was liquidated?
The latter is my contention.
The same police department claims it did not know where Merah lived yet nonetheless viewed him as a suspicious character because of his visits to Pakistan and Afghanistan.
He was actually hauled in and questioned on November 14th last year, shortly after he returned from abroad. The inquiries seem then to have been peremptorily dropped, presumably on the orders of his secret service minder.
This is exactly the same pattern with Mohamed Bayouri, who stabbed the Islamophobe Dutch film maker Theo van Gogh to death in Amsterdam in November 2004. It is worth adding here that Nardine Amrani, the Arabic ‘Monster of Liege’ held responsible for the pre-Christmas massacre in that Belgian city, was well known to the police. So was Anders Behring Breivik, the purported Norwegian mass murderer of July 2011.
Breivik and Amrani amassed a large cache of weapons which the authorities knew all about. Mohamed Ali Agca, the man convicted of shooting Pope John Paul II, belonged to a Turkish criminal organization called the Gray Wolves with old ties to the Gladio secret armies.
Any repetitive pattern like this tells an important story and speaks of centralized origins from an identical story book and planning department.
Next, Merah was supposedly on a US-ordained no-fly list. Yet when the NATO occupation authorities picked up him somewhere in Afghanistan, they did no more than throw him out of the country, or so it was said.
To complicate matters further, German intelligence gave its opinion that Merah had never been arrested or detained anyplace in the region.
It seems to me that the police were entirely out of the loop most of the time. When the soldiers were attacked the story did the rounds that disaffected paratroopers who had been fired from the military for ultra-Right views were responsible.
Three such individuals were questioned and released. Look, if military personnel really are sacked in France for holding Right-wing semi-fascist opinions, then there would be practically nobody left in the forces to don a uniform.
The same goes for the national gendarmerie for that matter.
So far we have glimpsed a picture which suggests that Merah was sneaking for one if not two intelligence agencies in France, that he had some kind of ‘untouchable’ status familiar to other secret services outside France, and that his address was well known to the authorities all along.
Now we dissect the eye witness reports, the important ones being from those who were at the scene of the awful events outside the Jewish school.
As always, there is considerable difference between accounts (as a former television journalist well accustomed to reporting scene of crime incidents, I can attest that this is invariably the case).
The killer, whoever he was, arrived on a powerful Yamaha super-charged motor scooter, calmly parked it and then started shooting at random.
One witness reported that the gunman had ‘green eyes,’ another claimed to have had a good look at his face and noticed a tattoo.
If it was possible to see such details, then why not observe at the same time whether the individual concerned was a white Caucasian or someone with a darker skin tone implying northern Africa origins?
[Editor’s note: keep in mind, there were also early reports claiming that the shooter actually had the visor of his motorcycle helmet down during the course of the atrocity. That would make it quite difficult, if not impossible, to make out such details.]
I am asking myself what killer in these highly-charged circumstances would do anything other than make sure that no-one could identify his features.
Consider the detail of crash helmets. Bikers on a cultural hype generally go for the Darth Vader full face screen type.
The latex is generally tinted, so the features are not visible unless the rider lifts the visor. The more common kind has only a partial visor (not usually tinted) and a chinguard. This allows for clear examination of facial features.
Now, obviously I have not seen any more than a fraction of the witness accounts. But at this point I can find no conclusive evidence that (a) Merah ‘had green eyes’ or (b) that he had a facial tattoo.
The regressive green eye gene (which I have, incidentally) is found in genetic trends among some Arabs, but is not common. I have examined the many media images of Merah and I have not found one so far that depicts any form of tattoo.
The story of the Yamaha machine is also more than interesting. Once again, media accounts vary wildly as to precisely how he came by it.
The running theme is that he answered a for-sale ad, took a trial run, and then scooted off with it. The owner became suspicious because he was telephoned, presumably by Merah, to get the instructions on how to remove the GPS kit fitted to the machine. He decided to call the police. So, did Merah steal the bike or not? Because this element of the story suggests that he bought it.
The devil is always in the details in these matters. To steal the machine, Merah needs the operating starter key. He has to obtain that from the owner, so it needs to be a personal exchange, obviously.
In the circumstances, the owner will remember an image of the prospective buyer. How well is he going to co-operate with someone who has stolen his precious bike? Or alternatively, how does he sell his property to someone he never sees?
Of course the subsequently circulated account of Merah the petty thief fits well with the stolen Yamaha theory.
Alternatively, Merah did purchase the machine, and then it was in turn stolen from him by the parties that promoted the subsequent attacks. Or, in another twist, a perfectly innocent citizen is riding the machine around, while another altogether featured in the attacks.
Merah presumably would have realized that having committed frightful atrocities, his life expectations would be rather poor to say the least. Yet he bothered about removing the GPS gear, assumedly because it will reveal his address, when he knows perfectly well that the intelligence services know exactly where he resides, together with his wife.
Trying to knit together these disparate accounts suggests the fable factory is working overtime.
Finally, the exit. All France watches in abject mesmerized horror as the police and special forces swarm around Merah’s apartment block, accompanied by massed legions of ambulance personnel, reporters, television cameramen, plus all the customary ghouls who hover at once-in-a-lifetime events like this.
There is one word for this obscenity on top of those already committed.
Inside the apartment, alone, deprived of sleep by the cacophony outside, it isn’t surprising that the incarcerated individual is slowly going nuts. He probably does not understand at all why he is the focus of such attention, so he begs to speak to his secret service handler.
I do not believe that there was ever any intention of permitting Merah to leave that place alive.
Rather, the agony was exquisitely prolonged to derive maximum political impact as the presidential election campaign wound into overdrive, the incumbent Nicholas Sarkozy feeling the hot breath on his neck from his main challenger, the socialist contender Francois Hollande.
The famous RAID rapid intervention squad was rapidly summoned to the scene. The simplest and most effective way to root Merah out of his refuge was by means of sleeping gas but instead the siege was prolonged for no less than thirty two hours, until the sitting duck within was exhausted. The RAID people then broke in guns blazing, thus ensuring that dead men tell no tales.
Shortly after the ‘termination,’ the Al Jazeera news channel declared that it possessed a video supposedly made by Merah, using camera equipment strapped to his chest, portraying the murders in awful grisly detail. The British Daily Telegraph gushed the unsubstantiated rumor-as-news account that Merah copied the idea from the Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik.
Much was made of French authorities begging the channel not to release the footage (without any explanation as to how precisely it flew by magic means to the Persian Gulf).
However, in terms of accuracy, the Norwegian authorities never found any such video, nor camera equipment, although Breivik referred to the idea in his obviously ghost written and rambling memoirs.
Nor did eye witnesses state report that the killer had any such equipment dangling around his neck or fixed to his clothes.
Rather more illuminating is the fact that Al Jazeera is owned by the Gulf State of Qatar, through the Qatar Media Corporation. Qatar is a regional sub-NATO base which hosts the US Central Command’s headquarters in the Middle East.
The pocket state’s ruler, Khalifi bin Hamad Al Thani, is a close ally and personal friend of President Nicholas Sarkozy. The Qatar Investment Agency owns the iconic major league Paris Saint-Germain Football Club on behalf of the sports mad emir.
This post deals exclusively with my initial assessment of forensic inconsistencies in the conviction and liquidation of Mohamed Merah. The next will concentrate on the highly disconcerting political background.
Let me say now that I consider that this affair ranks in empirical political terms with the attack on Pope John Paul II (‘St. Petersgate’ in my book). It is that theme that I intend to address next.
For now let me suggest that the bleak events in and around Toulouse were quite possibly a long time in the making.
Richard Cottrell is a writer, journalist and former European MP (Conservative). His new book Gladio: NATO’s Dagger At The Heart Of Europe is now available from Progressive Press. You may order it using the link below (or by clicking here – Gladio, NATO’s Dagger at the Heart of Europe: The Pentagon-Nazi-Mafia Terror Axis):
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Edited by Madison Ruppert