Seifeddine Rezgui alleged to have trained in Libya with weapons (Image, Telegraph)
Seifeddine Rezgui (23) who killed 38 tourists at the beach resort of Sousse, Tunisia allegedly “crossed the border in secret” and “trained in Libya with weapons at the same period as the Bardo (museum) attackers” according to a statement from Rafik Chelli (interior ministry, Tunisia) to Associated Press. The Independent reported Chelli as saying, “Rezgui had visited the neighbouring country in January, travelling with fellow jihadists who afterwards carried out the attack that targeted tourists at the Bardo Museum in Tunis, leaving 22 dead.” Friends of Rezgui also claimed he had visited Libya again in March.
The BBC reported that, “the Tunisian authorities have already arrested several suspected accomplices” in relation to the Sousse attack suggesting others may have been involved in some way. In addition, aquaintances of Rezgui also believed he had trained in Libya as student Wassim Bel Adel explained to Sky News, see following video link from the Guardian,
This information was reported widely by Irish Times, BBC , the Sydney Morning Herald and a range of other international media. Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for both attacks in the country.
Nabila Ramdani, the “specialist” that failed to check her research (image BBC Newsnight)
The information released by Tunisian authorities goes against an article on “lone wolf” attackers in the Guardian by Nabila Ramdani, so called specialist in Anglo-French issues, Islamic affairs, and the Arab World who seems more interested in self promotion than checking statements. Ramdani an independent Paris-born freelance journalist of Algerian descent who claims a list of awards failed to do her research. She is claiming that both Yassine Salhi who carried out the beheading of his boss in France (on the same day as Rezgui) and Rezgui himself are both “micro -terrorists” “lone wolves” and “there is no evidence of either travelling abroad to train for combat.” The misguided “academic” also stated that both men “were thought to be “self-radicalised”, rather than members of a wider cell.” Perhaps Ramdani is so busy listing her personal achievements there is no time for background research?
I politely challenged her claims regarding Rezgui, sending Ramdani the statement from Chelli on Rezgui’s alleged training in Libya. After a short Twitter interaction where she failed to defend her stance, instead of admitting inaccuracies she proceeded to block the messenger thus feeding into claims by many insurgents that mainstream media are so biased it affects their presentation and ability to report. Had Ramdani curbed her arrogance and taken time to listen, she might have even learnt something. Her report can be read on the following link,
“These lone wolf terrorists are not holy warriors”
Back in March 2015, IS alleged in their publication Dabiq number 8,
“in the city of Tunis, two soldiers of the Islamic State carried out an assault on kāfir tourists in the Bardo National Museum. The two mujāhidīn, Abū Zakariyyā at-Tūnusī and Abū Anas at-Tūnusī, were sent on their mission after having trained with their brothers in Libya and having declared their bay’ah to the Khalīfah (hafidhahullāh). They returned to Tunisia, bravely advanced towards the security quarter in Tunis, entered the museum – located across from the Tunisian parliament – and poured terror on the kuffār inside, killing more than 20 of them and injuring a dozen others. They then faced off against the local murtadd security forces with their AK assault rifles, hand grenades, and explosive belts, and were killed fī sabīlillāh.
The operation succeeded in bringing anguish to a number of the nations involved in the crusader coalition (Italy, France, Britain, Japan, Poland, Australia, Spain, and Belgium), after some of their own citizens became prey for the soldiers”
Today AP reported Government minister Kamel Jendoubi as stating eight people are still being detained in Tunisia, “seven men and one woman — are suspected of direct links to the attacks” Jendoubi added that the investigation “has allowed us to discover the network behind the operation in Sousse.”
Yassine Salhi “told interrogators that he had decapitated his employer ‘in a car park’” (Image Laurent Cipriani”
Ramdani also stated, that Yassine Salhi (the French attacker who decapitated his boss and allegedly crashed a vehicle into gas cylinders at an industrial site to cause an explosion) is said to be offering “personal reasons” as mitigation for activities. Ramdani appears to have accurately reported his words though the reasons given by Salhi are questionable. The Independent initially reported the following on 28th June 2015,
“investigations in the four days since Salhi’s arrest — notably evidence of contact with an Islamist militant in Syria — justified an inquiry on charges of suspected terrorism and not simply, as Salhi argued, an assassination that was provoked by personal problems with his boss and wife.”
Ramdani appears to have already decided however that Salhi is a “micro-terrorist” a “wretched freelancer” and a “lone wolf”… she writes,
“nowadays anyone can claim a link with the so-called Islamic State or al-Qaida and their dark crimes. All it takes are a few shouted slogans, a selfie next to a bloodied body part, or an obscure flag. Affiliations are usually based on what someone has seen on television or online. The media will do the rest.”
I am not sure what Ramdani’s personal agenda is, however IB Times reported, “Prosecutor François Molins accused Yassin Salhi of having a “selective memory” about the attack on Friday (26 June), which he said bore all the hallmarks of the Islamic State (Isis) jihadi group.”
See following link,
“France: Isis Lyon suspect Yassin Salhi hit victim with jack and choked him before beheading”
Salhi may well be mocking the police (and the west) by using the “personal problems” defence. In recent weeks there have been many heated discussions on social and “jihadi” forums relating to how easy it is in the west for non-Muslims to claim “personal reasons” family, work and mental health problems as mitigation in order to avoid “terrorism” charges.
Craig Stephen Hicks, was killing a “car park dispute” or something else? (Image, Chuck Liddy, the News and Observer, AP)
One such case regularly discussed on forums was the killing of 3 Muslim students in North Carolina by Craig Stephen Hicks who declared himself “anti-theist” and “criticised all religions online” according to the Independent. His victims were named as Shaddy Barakat (23), his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha (21) and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha (19). The Mail Online also reported that Hicks “posted online that he was a staunch advocate of the constitutional right to bear arms.”
At the time of Hicks killings, I received mocking messages from an individual appearing to know Hicks suggesting that certain pre -meditated killings of minorities in the US would be passed off as “lone wolf” attacks thus focusing away from any right-wing extremist links. The messenger suggested that these individuals would be treated as “heroes” for sacrificing a few years in prison. The use of a defence such as “family” “work reasons” and “mental health” would then work to focus investigators away from prosecuting as terrorists. The interactions were chilling and were discussed with other writers, campaigners at the time.
What is interesting is that according to the Mail, “Hicks’ wife held a press conference shortly after the murders to say that the killings were not a hate crime and that they were a result of a dispute over parking.” The Times reported that “the victims’ cars were all parked correctly in the apartment complex where they lived on the night of the attack.” Family and friends of the slain students claimed Hicks who was described as an “angry man” appeared to be obsessed with the Muslim students wearing of a headscarf symbolizing their faith.
There was outrage from many Muslims globally at the time of the Hicks attack, furious that this case was not being treated as “terrorism” claiming that if he were a Muslim killing white students he would have likely been treated as a “terrorist”.
It may be coincidence that Salhi in France is claiming “personal reasons” for his alleged killing of his boss however his specific reference to beheading in a “car park” is interesting, and may be significant given the Hicks case. Though Salhi has not been publicly linked to any terrorist group, that is not to say this is not a possibility and it is well know that the Islamic State for example mimics the “crimes of the west” on its videos. Could Salhi have been mimicking Hicks and his defence stated to authorities?
Dylann Roof investigators checking out his online connections, did he operate alone? (Image, Independent)
Dylann Roof (21) is alleged to have shot dead 9 worshippers in a church in Charleston, South Carolina (also featured in Ramdani’s “lone wolf” report) and was photographed wearing a jacket embellished with flags from apartheid-era South Africa and Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). The case again enraged Muslims that this was not being treated as “terrorism”. Several journalists, politicians, activists and terror analysts argued that the alleged killings fitted the FBI criteria for ” domestic terrorism”.
See my earlier article,
“US domestic terrorism: We need to talk about Dylann, Charleston Church Shootings”
The Guardian has recently reported that Roof is now being investigated with regard to his alleged links on social media.
“the FBI and local authorities are investigating a website that may contain a manifesto created by the white supremacist Dylann Roof before he walked into a South Carolina church this week and shot dead nine black churchgoers.”
The FBI have now “formally acknowledged it was investigating the website and the apparent manifesto” as to whether “the shooting was a hate crime or an act of terror ” see link,
The question must be asked, did Roof have links to other white supremacists that may have had a desire to kill? Let’s not forget also the recent spate of church attacks in the south as Post and Courier reported this could suggest a wider network may be at large. The publication reported,
“flames engulfed a historic African-American church Tuesday night that was already destroyed once by a blaze ignited by the Ku Klux Klan in 1995.
Mount Zion AME Church in Greeleyville is the seventh black church to burn across the South in the wake of the killing of nine worshipers at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church.”
Killers whatever their motives can mislead, lie, withhold information and mock those investigating them, sometimes it is a planned part of their “modus operandi” serving a personal satisfaction perhaps or even a wider political statement. All may not be as it first appears, it might be easy to write off some killers as “lone wolf” attackers without any obvious links as simply isolated misfits in society but all possible avenues must be explored. The families of those killed have a right to a thorough investigation. Society needs to know as far as possible why people have killed and are being killed whether by jihadists or far right extremists. We must ask, what messages should be taken on board in order to address how authorities and the public can take measures to limit such attacks in the future?
Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad . She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.