Quick action by unarmed off-duty U.S. servicemen on a high speed train from Amsterdam to Paris narrowly averted tragedy yesterday as they subdued a terrorist gunman before he could begin his rampage. And according to multiple reports, the suspect in custody was known to multiple European intelligence agencies — yet another case of what I have termed “known wolf” terrorism.
Since last year, I’ve noted here at PJ Media that virtually all of the terrorist incidents in the West have been conducted by subjects who were already known to law enforcement and national security agencies, refuting the “lone wolf” narrative floated by authorities and the establishment media that such terrorist activity is random and unpredictable.
And such appears to be the case yet again in the case of what happened on the Thalys train.
The suspected gunman, a Moroccan national, was on the radar screen of European counterterrorism agencies for his radical jihadist views, the European counterterrorism official said.
A second security source told CNN the gunman was known by French intelligence. The official said it appeared the gunman was sympathetic to ISIS, but a full determination on his specific loyalties had yet to be reached.
Another report from The Telegraph indicates that the gunman was known to multiple European intelligence agencies:
The gunman who tried to bring carnage to a high-speed train is believed to have been an Islamist extremist who traveled to Syria last year.
The 26-year-old of Moroccan origin, named in the Spanish press as Ayoub El Qahzzani, is understood to have been on the watch lists of three European intelligence services.
The gunman was taken into custody at Arras station and the French authorities have not released his name. But if he was Qahzzani, he appears to have left Morocco in 2013 and moved to Spain, where he lived for about a year.
And Reuters indicates that Qahzzani was no “lone wolf”:
According to Le Voix du Nord, citing security sources, the suspected Islamist militant was seen on a plane to Turkey from Germany in May, and was thought to have visited Syria.
The French newspaper said he may have had connections to a group involved in a suspected Islamist shooting in Belgium in January.
One terrorism expert makes an important point:
Let's face it, this could easily have been 3x worse than Charlie Hebdo. And conversations we'd be having today would be v different
— Peter R. Neumann (@PeterRNeumann) August 22, 2015
An editor at the Jerusalem Post also asks another relevant question:
How come potential terrorists under "security observation" in #Europe can always seem 2 get lots of guns? #guncontrol
— Seth Frantzman (@sfrantzman) August 22, 2015
The case of yet another returned foreign fighter from Syria engaged in terrorism seems to refute the attempts by many counterterrorism researchers to say the threat is “exaggerated” and that terror returnees should be treated with a “hands-off” reintegration approach, most recently advocated by Charles Lister at Brookings Institution.
The “Known Wolf” terrorism phenomenon is something I have documented here at PJ Media going back to last year:
Oct. 24, 2014: ‘Lone Wolf’ or ‘Known Wolf’: The Ongoing Counter-Terrorism Failure
Dec. 15, 2014: Sydney Hostage Taker Another Case of ‘Known Wolf’ Syndrome
Jan. 7, 2015: Paris Terror Attack Yet Another Case of ‘Known Wolf’ Syndrome
Feb. 3, 2015: French Police Terror Attacker Yesterday Another Case of ‘Known Wolf’ Syndrome
Feb. 15, 2015: Copenhagen Killer Was yet Another Case of ‘Known Wolf’ Terrorism
Feb. 26, 2015: Islamic State Beheader ‘Jihadi John’ Yet Another Case of ‘Known Wolf’ Terrorism
Apr. 22, 2015: Botched Attack on Paris Churches Another Case of “Known Wolf” Terrorism
May 4, 2015:Texas Attack Is Yet Another Case of ‘Known Wolf’ Terrorism
June 26, 2015:France’s Beheading Terrorist Was Well-Known By Authorities
July 16, 2015:Report: Chattanooga Jihadist Was Yet Another ‘Known Wolf’ Terrorist, Anonymous Feds Dispute
This was also the subject of a Capitol Hill briefing I gave back in late January sponsored by the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET):
So why is it that despite these repeated instances of “known wolf” terrorism, authorities have yet to even acknowledge the problem, let alone try to solve it?
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