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Sunday, November 2, 2003
FROM JOSEPH FARAH'S G2 BULLETIN
Meet the French terror connection
Al-Qaida operative arrested, while officials find jihadists operate with impunity in Paris
Posted: November 2, 2003
1:00 a.m. Eastern
Editor's note: Joseph Farah's G2 Bulletin is an online, subscription intelligence news service from the creator of WorldNetDaily.com – a journalist who has been developing sources around the world for the last 25 years.
© 2003 WorldNetDaily.com
France is involved in a massive, emergency investigation of the activities of Islamic terror groups operating inside the country, turning the European nation into a major logistical and operational base, reports Joseph Farah's G2 Bulletin.
Much of the new information on the French terror connection comes from intelligence and law-enforcement sources in Australia, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Singapore.
Among the startling discoveries:
The French intelligence community is conducting a major clandestine operation aimed at discovering the exact locations, operators and participants of the training sites.
At the center of the investigation is a mysterious French citizen – former social worker Willie Virgile Brigitte, 35, whose acquaintances say arrived in Asia more than two years ago from the French Caribbean territory of Guadalupe. The man is described as an adventurer who converted to Islam and served as an informant for the French Counter-Espionage Agency. Brigitte was arrested in Australia early last month.
Three weeks ago he was extradited to France. A number of his acquaintances residing in Sydney, including foreign nationals, were also under investigation having their passports confiscated. The Australian Security Service said raids were conducted on at least seven homes where some documents related to Brigitte's activities were found. Australian Prime Minister John Howard added more information, saying the French national did not attend a mosque but rather a less known Wahabbi prayer hall in Sydney.
According to a reliable source in New South Wales, a number of people known to Brigitte, including two other Frenchmen and one Belgian, managed to leave Australia within hours of his arrest. It is believed they will try to reach France in a so-called zig-zag trail, which will take them to an Asian destination, from there to Abu Dhabi or Egypt, before reaching France.
Brigitte, who is also described as a character from a cloak-and-dagger novel, stayed several times in Pakistan, where he cooperated with Muslim militants, especially those known to be affiliated with Jamaa Islamiah and al-Qaida. He also used his French passport to visit Afghanistan, disguised as a journalist. While in Kabul he helped plan the murder of the Afghani Northern Alliance leader, Ahmed Shah Masud. One of Brigitte's interrogators said Brigitte was using new passports he had obtained to travel with a virgin document with no border crossing stamps, which could have revealed places and dates related to his activities.
Masud, also known as the Lion of Panjshir, was an opponent of the Taliban and al-Qaida, and had maintained so-called "working ties'' with the CIA. It is believed Masud's agents had vital information which could have jeopardized the Sept. 11 terror massacres. His assassination by two suicide bombers disguised as Belgian journalists, Qassem Bakkali and Karim Touzani, came only two days before Sept. 11. It was a blow to American intelligence efforts in Afghanistan. At times it was claimed the assassination was ''a favor'' offered to the Taliban by Osama bin Laden but, this theory is now being disputed. Most analysts believe the execution was ordered as soon as bin Laden learned of the possibility the Northern Alliance warlord had information about the planned attacks in New York and Washington.
After the collapse of the Taliban, Brigitte was seen in Paris, but shortly after Sept. 11, he traveled to Afghanistan apparently on an intelligence mission on behalf of bin Laden. A major part of his activities was to learn about French-Pakistani cooperation in a number of areas, ranging from intelligence to weapons production in Karachi, where French technicians were helping build submarines. A reliable source in Islamabad claims the Pakistanis failed to fully identify Willie Brigitte, accepting his explanation of being interested in learning more about Islam. Although questioned by immigration authorities, no action was taken against him. French nationals in Pakistan say Willie Brigitte was most interested in ''who is who'' in the French community, including learning about their original homes and relatives in France. In addition to information about his semi-clandestine activities in Pakistan, the Australians say the Frenchman was known to have been distributing false passports. His activities were not limited to al-Qaida and may have included missions on behalf of Jamaa Islamiah. The Frenchman acted as an instructor to passport recipients, helping them build a new identity. The preferred passports distributed by Islamic militants in Australia were stolen original passports from Belgium, Canada, Italy and Morocco.
A source in Sydney, with information about Brigitte's arrest and deportation to France, says important information about the movement of the colorful Frenchman came from France. This information asserts that by the end of September 2003 the French had alerted the Australian intelligence community to the possibility al-Qaida, or an affiliate organization, was planning a terror attack in conjunction with President Bush's visit Down Under. The reason for France's ''generosity'' in sharing information was concern a mega-terror hit would be linked to a French national. Although the French were basically interested in continuing to monitor Brigitte to get more information about his contacts, a decision was taken by a high authority, probably from President Jacques Chiraq's office, to alert Australia and bring Willie home.
A number of raids on homes of suspects in New South Wales and in Victoria resulted in arrests and interrogations focusing on the growing Arab-Asian community. Australian intelligence officers are convinced their activities prevented at least one attack on a large Australian public location, which was to be carried out during the ASEAN summit as some of the world's leaders were paying a visit also to Australia. The Australians disseminated their information to a half-dozen intelligence agencies known to have been visited by Brigitte and to other countries he had contacted using public telephones.
While the Australians continue to investigate the ties of Brigitte and his contacts with local Muslim militants, counter-terror analysts in Canberra believe at least one of the sleeping cells affiliated with an Islamic Jihad group, was helped by European converts to Islam in building sophisticated explosive devices. The Australians assess Islamic terrorists are moving faster to include converts in their terrorist preparations. At times the converts are ordered not to reveal their new religion, rationalizing their original European identify serves as an asset in the planning of terror activities, especially in carrying messages, moving funds and equipment. Most of these new Muslims found their way also to Pakistan and to the many radical madrassas, or religious schools, operating there. Others were sent to India where they received help from or delivered information to clandestine Islamic groups of Indian nationality. The Pakistani intelligence community has probably assisted a number of new Muslims to move freely through Pakistan and has even supplied them with travel documents. In return they received intelligence gathered by the converts on India's military. One Indian counter-intelligence officer told G2 Bulletin: ''India is still the number one tourist country in the region and using the disguise of a tourist, Europeans can move freely throughout the country.'' The official also said that in some cases Europeans were told to leave sensitive areas, especially in the Jammu and Kashmir region, a top priority for the Pakistani intelligence. From a terrorist point of view, it is crucial for such organizations as the Jamaa Islamiah to send messengers to Jammu and Kashmir where they contact local Mujahedeen.
Some of the new Muslims turned out to be nothing more than ''wannabe'' terrorists attempting to gain respect and even notoriety as Mujahedeens. However, it seems terrorist groups do not stop them from bragging due to the fact their stories and self proclaimed affiliations might attract the attention of intelligence organizations who would be led on a wild goose chase.
Others are suspected of being double agents. New investigations in Canada showed the existence of Jihad cells in Ontario and Quebec. But the Canadian police and the Canadian intelligence and security service have great difficulties in learning who is a ''wannabe'' and who is for real. Some of Brigitte's acquaintances were seen in the greater Toronto area and were probably involved with the alert of last week's CSIS claim a terrorist cell has in its possession shoulder-operated anti-aircraft missiles. It is believed they were planning to use these weapons against Israeli aircraft. At least on two occasions El Al flights were diverted from their routine routes to an alternate one to prevent any attack on them.
Brigitte's story is important also as an indication of the deployment of Jihad cells in the non-Muslim world. At this time it seems a new strategy, designed by close associates of Osama bin Laden or perhaps even by himself, is behind the selection of target countries to be used as staging grounds for future terror activities. Until recently this list included Australia but the number of warnings and wake up calls the Australian intelligence community succeeded in gathering, forced the terrorists to look for more countries and new alternatives.
As evaluated by counter-terror analysts a very high alert level is permanently on in Europe. Therefore, the terrorists' choice was based, first of all, on finding countries where intelligence activity is not known to be very efficient or considered to hold particularly high standards. At times this low-level intelligence preparedness derives from politically correct attitudes by governments attempting to please and calm large immigrant communities. At the top of this list stands Canada. Other countries in the Western Hemisphere where terror activities can be identified include Argentina, Brazil and lately also Mexico. The activity in Latin America revolves around mosques as ''talent scouts'' are busy identifying new converts, with special emphasis on detecting young female converts. The recruiters expect women to attract less attention when operating as ''mules'' or in intelligence gathering. The talent scouts included, as some Australians assess, Willie Virgile Brigitte.
G2 Bulletin has learned from its sources that recruitment activities can also be found in Canadian and Mexican universities. The decision of terrorist organizations to operate outside of the U.S. is aimed at an effort ''not to disturb the peace'' among radical Islamic groups in the U.S. This is due to the fact such groups are being closely monitored by American law-enforcement agencies. As Brigitte's interrogation continues, counter-intelligence analysts are able to draw an expanding spider web diagram of connections and ties. The major enigma still facing authorities is the need to identify the whereabouts of the spinning ''mother'' spider.
With last month being the holy month of Islam, sources believe the spider will instruct its dormant cells, or even cells that have already been activated, to go into action. If this indeed happens there is very little doubt the culprits will include European, Australian or American-born terrorists, who so far as one can tell right now could be the boy next door.
Willie Virgile Brigitte could become the key factor in solving at least some parts of the puzzle. At the same time his capture and the results of his interrogation could act as a warning signal to the diversity and complexity of global Jihad.