The two men who are in a Belgian jail because they brought Paris suspect Salah Abdeslam back to Brussels, made suspicious journeys before. Hamza Attou went to the UK with a man of Iraqi descent only three days before the attacks, while Mohamed Amri visited Turkey at least seven times during the past two years.
Mohamed Amri (26) and Hamza Attou (21) belonged to the very first suspects who were caught after the Paris attacks. They quickly confessed that they had brought the only surviving perpetrator back to Brussels that night. On the phone, Salah Abdeslam reportedly said that he had suffered a car accident. It was only when they met him in Paris, that he told them about his role in the bloodbath. According to their declarations, he threatened to blow up Amri’s Volkswagen Golf if they refused to give him a lift.
Amri and Attou are still behind bars, but no details have surfaced yet about a further implication in the terrorist plot. When Molenbeek mayor Françoise Schepmans named the Paris suspects who were on a list of radicalized inhabitants prior to the attacks, she did not mention these two. In the 55 pages long report that the Paris police has written about the attacks for the French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve however, it is stated that the Belgian authorities knew Amri already as “being close to the movement of the extremist Islam”.
That same report also reveals how both Amri and Attou undertook suspicious journeys in the days and years before the Paris attacks. Airline registers learned that Amri went to Istanbul at least seven times between May 2013 and May 2014. When returning, he often flew to other destinations than his home town Brussels — such as Paris, Marseille, and Copenhagen. The report contains no proof that his travel was related to terrorist activities, but they happened at a time when Turkey served as the main gate to Syria for tens of members of the network behind the Paris and Brussels attacks.
Hamza Attou left Belgium on the 10th of November 2015 for a journey to the UK. He did so in the company of a man from Brussels with roots in Iraq, and a Dutchman of Somali descent. It was the latter who drove the Ford Focus with Dutch license plate when they boarded the ferry from Dunkerque to Dover. Their tickets were booked by an autochtonous Dutchman we could reach and who provided some background about the trip.
He told us that the Dutchman of Somali descent is a youth friend who wanted to visit relatives in the UK. “On the internet, he searched for people who would join him in order to share some of the costs. That’s how he came into contact with the men from Brussels. He did not know them at all prior to that England trip.” Reportedly, the trio was stopped in the UK because something was wrong with the identity papers of one of the Brussels men. But what exactly was the problem, is not known — and neither is how long they were held.
The men from Brussels did not travel back together with the Dutchman, but if they did so with their initial reservation, they came back the very same day as the Paris attacks. Again, the French police report does not allege that their stay in the UK was somehow linked to terrorism. The Brussels man of Iraqi descent, 43 year old A.J.I.H. seems to have relatives living in London, which can mean there is a completely innocent reason for visiting the UK. We do not know whether he was interrogated about the trip, but the Dutchman of Somali descent certainly was.
“Burn all the flags!” – A summary of what was written on the Facebook page of Copenhagen terrorist Omar El-HusseinPosted: 2015/02/17
On Monday morning, we discovered the Facebook account of Copenhagen shooter Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein. Since it was taken offline a few hours later, we summarize its content here for people wanting to research the background of the man.
• The URL of the page was http://www.facebook.com/omar.gz.374, an apparent reference to the real first name of El-Hussein. But at the moment we found it, the account bore the name ‘Abu Ramadan AlMuhajir’ — preceded by epithet “Remembering”, as if the owner had prepared his death. Further personal details, such as date of birth or place of residence, weren’t mentioned and it also wasn’t clear at what time the page was established. That it indeed was the Facebook account of the deceased terrorist, was later confirmed by one of his friends to a Danish news site.
• The account did not contain any picture of El-Hussein and his friends list wasn’t public. But the ‘likes’ that could be seen, consisted mainly of people belonging to the Copenhagen Muay Thai Club of which El-Hussein has been a member, and to the Palestinian refugee communities in Jordania (especially in the town of Irbid, it seems) and Lebanon (especially in Saïda, where El-Hussein’s family is told to have its roots). We didn’t see a direct proof of links to other people with an extremist or terrorist background — but that’s up to further research.
• The oldest message was posted on September 28, 2013. It showed a picture of a white wolf with a comment in Arabic stating “When you see the teeth of a lion (sic), don’t think it is laughing.” 15 people liked the post.
• The next message was posted on February 14, 2015 at 2:39 pm, Danish time apparently. It contained two screenshots from a video, showing someone who is burning and trampling a Palestinian flag. The comment in English was: “Burn this fake flag made by Mark Sykes, flag of colonialism and humiliation. Flag of jahiliyah pride and nationalism. BURN ALL THE FLAGS.” We saw no likes for this post.
• On that same February 14, 2015 at 2:57 pm a link to YouTube was posted. It consisted of a video uploaded on the account of ‘Proud Muslim Productions’, titled ‘Soon Soon – Qariban Qariba – قريبا قريبا ترون العجيب – Latest Dawlah Caliphate Nasheed’. A copy saved for research purpose can be found here. Apparently, it is the same nasheed that could be heard in the recent video message of Islamic State, titled ‘Healing the Believer’s Chests’ and showing the execution of the Jordanian pilot who was burned alive in a cage. The translation of the text appears to be “Soon, soon, you will see the wondrous sight, a fierce conflict. And you will see, there will be battles in the heart of your abode. To destroy you, my sword has been sharpened. We have marched by night to cut and slaughter.” No likes for this post.
• On February 14, 2015 at 3:01 pm a post explicitly mentioning its location as ‘København – Denmark’ consisted of a text in Arabic. Apparently it was verse 2 of Sura Al-Hashr — the story about the expulsion of a Jewish tribe as told in the Quran. It can be translated as: “It is He who expelled the ones who disbelieved among the People of the Scripture from their homes at the first gathering. You did not think they would leave, and they thought that their fortresses would protect them from Allah; but [the decree of] Allah came upon them from where they had not expected, and He cast terror into their hearts [so] they destroyed their houses by their [own] hands and the hands of the believers. So take warning, O people of vision.” No likes for this post.
• On February 14, 2015 at 3:24 pm, a text was posted in Romanised written Arabic, being a pledge of allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the highest leader of the terrorist group Islamic State. It can be translated as follows — thanks to Pieter Van Ostaeyen for his help: “We pledged to Abu Bakr to listen and obey in our ease and our hardship, in what we find pleasing and what we dislike. We do not dispute the authority of those who possess it, except if we see open disbelief upon which we have clear proof from Allah”. Again, no likes for this post.