The Spectacle Blog

The French Shooting Suspect’s Jihadi Network

By on 3.21.12 | 9:22AM

As Aaron Goldstein notes below, the suspect in a standoff with French police in Toulouse reportedly trained with al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He's also affiliated with Forsane Alizza, a group that was banned in France last month. Aaron Zelin, a researcher who collects and translates radical Islamist material at Jihadology.net, tweets this morning, "So I wake up to the French shooter potentially being a Forsane Alizza dude? If so, he's no lone wolf. Nurtured by a French jihadi network." In a dozen tweets, give or take, he goes on to sketch some background on the group and how it's linked to similar groups in Europe; the series of tweets are collected via Storify here.

The series concludes with former US Navy intelligence analyst Andy Kopp chiming in to caution that "it's still a big presumption this is 'group' related, despite his affiliations. Would represent a serious departure from [Forsane Alizza's modus operandi]"; Zelin responds that he agrees, and is just "contextualizing his social network. Not saying [Forsane Alizza] directed [the] plot, but he doesn't live in a vacuum."

UPDATE: Zelin has now updated his Storify thread to add an important, subtle point: Forsane Alizza is not an al Qaeda affiliate and it's a mistake to conflate them, but for the purposes of al Qaeda propaganda, "if the Toulouse shooter says he's AQ, he is, period." This holds true even if the reports about his AfPak training turn out to be incorrect.

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