Two Frenchmen Accused of Terrorism Caught in Italy

Two French self-declared Islamic fundamentalists, Bassam Ayachi, 63, and Raphaël Gendron, 34, who now live in Brussels where they run the Belgian Islamic Center (Centre islamique belge) were arrested in Italy on terrorism charges. More specifically, the men were accused of illegal immigration and of threatening state security in their planned attacks in France, notably on the Charles de Gaulle airport. Now they face much more serious allegations following a counter-terrorism investigation by Italian, French and Belgian police. Italian authorities have officially charged them with being leaders of a logistical support team for al Qaeda. The men have been held in Bari, Italy since November 2008 when they were arrested on suspicion of smuggling two Syrians and three Palestinians into Italy aboard a camping trailer.

Italy accuses two of leading roles in al Qaeda training

Italian prosecutors have accused two men, arrested last year for link to human trafficking, of being leading al Qaeda figures in Europe and involved in training militants for suicide attacks. Police in the southern Italian city of Bari said that the two men, identified as Syrian imam Bassam Ayachi and French computer engineer Raphael Gendron, played leadings roles in “communication, transmission, and propaganda” for al Qaeda. The two men were arrested in November 2008 on suspicion of trying to smuggle five illegal immigrants into Italy. However, evidence in later searches have turned up a will of a would-be suicide attacker, detailing the compensation to his family after his death. In addition, tapped conversations between the two men had reference to an attack on Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport. The two men are also suspected to have close tied to a Brussels-based al Qaeda recruiting network. A senior Belgian intelligence source said that Ayachi and Gendron were known to provide ideological support for members of the alleged Brussels terrorism network, but at this time were not suspected of having played a direct role in recruiting young European Muslims for training in Pakistan. However, communication lines and inter-country ties are being closely examined.

This recent news story is a follow-up to prior arrests an issues, and emphasizes namely two major points – that terror and security investigations are often in flux and change as information is found, and national security agencies share information, and also that much like the above story, involves deeply complicated cooperation across different national interests. Who to prosecute, how, where, and according to whose legal system becomes an important consideration for all parties involved, with the added component of an ever-evolving case.