Source: Financial Times

by Anne-Sylvaine Chassany

Convicted terrorist plotted murders while under police surveillance

The killing of a police officer and his wife by a convicted Islamist extremist near Paris has prompted calls for new ways to detect when suspected radicals are preparing imminent attacks.

“We need to revisit completely our analytical approach,” Jean-Charles Brisard, head of the Paris-based Centre for the Analysis of Terrorism said. “Police rely on objective criteria to determine whether a terrorist is preparing a terror attack, such as an attempt to get weapons. These criteria need to be redefined. We need to be able to read much weaker signals, like a sudden change in behaviour.”

The extreme beliefs of Larrossi Abballa, the 25 year old Frenchman who stabbed the couple at their home in Magnanville on Monday night, were no mystery to police and intelligence services. In 2011, he was convicted for his involvement in a cell that funnelled militants to ungoverned parts of Pakistan. Investigators had found a list of local police stations at his home and messages showing an intention to hurt French “infidels.”

Abballa’s attempts to conceal his religious habits from his probation officer should have alerted investigators, Mr Brisard added. Abballa had also opened a Twitter account on June 8.

Analysts said intelligence services had placed too much emphasis on high-tech tracking of “strong signals” from higher echelons of al-Qaeda linked groups, at the expense of “weak signals” from operatives on the ground. “This is not adapted to this dispersed and fragmented threat,” Mr Brisard said.

Abballa plotted his murderous plan while being under police surveillance, according to French prosecutors. His phone conversations were wiretapped because of his suspected ties with a Jihadi organisation supplying French fighters to Isis in Syria. Yet nothing hinting he was about to strike transpired.

Manuel Valls, prime minister, refuted any security failings.

“We need to continue to tighten the net,” Mr Valls told FranceInter radio. “We need to continue to give more means to police and intelligence services.”

He insisted that two bills passed in the past year have granted more power and tools to authorities to monitor the 11,700 people flagged as posing a potential threat to national security because of their links to radical Islamist groups.

The terror threat “is a matter for a generation,” Mr Valls said. “Innocent lives will be lost.”


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