November 15, 2015 / 2:28 PM / 4 years ago

From small French town to Syria: the journey of a Western jihadi

CAIRO (Reuters) - An online profile of one of the men in a video posted by Islamic State after mass shootings and suicide bombings in Paris shows how hard it is to predict where the next threat will emerge.

An Islamic State militant who identifies himself as Abu Salman (2nd R) speaks at an undisclosed location, in this still image taken from undated video distributed by Islamic State on November 14, 2015. REUTERS/Social Media Website via Reuters TV

Unlike the sons of Muslim immigrants wanting to reconnect with their identities, the blue-eyed man, who spoke from an undisclosed location in the online profile, said his family came from a small town in France.

“I was born into a Christian family and baptized as a child but we never spoke about religion and (my parents) never took me to church except for weddings and other formal occasions,” he said as images of a baptism were shown.

The profile of Abu Salman, the Frenchman’s nom de guerre, is one of many slick videos aiming to recruit Westerners to Islamic State by trying to show that Western society’s secularism fails to inspire young men like him.

It was posted after he appeared in another video, which was issued a year ago and then re-released on Saturday, the day after attacks in Paris killed at least 129 people.

In that video Abu Salman and other men identified as French at a camp in an unidentified wooded area warn France it will suffer for its role U.S.-led air strikes against the group.

Islamic State is believed to have recruited thousands of foreign born fighters. Those militants are especially dangerous because they can form cells in the West or travel back there from the Middle East.

Prosecutors said Friday’s slaughter - claimed by Islamic State as revenge for French military action in Syria and Iraq - appeared to involve a multinational group with links to the Middle East, Belgium and possibly Germany as well as France.

There was no evidence Abu Salman or others in the video had any direct role in the attacks. The first suicide attacker to be identified was Ismael Omar Mostefai, a 29-year-old who lived in the city of Chartres, southwest of Paris. French media said he was French-born and of Algerian descent.


Abu Salman only converted to Islam as an adult, after surviving a serious motorcycle accident unscathed. He soon grew frustrated with the moderate Muslims who ran the only mosque in the town, viewing them as too conciliatory to French values.

“They preached French Islam, which appeases the infidels,” he said, adding that he was told to shave his long beard and remove his Afghan-style shirt.

It was a trip to Saudi Arabia that Abu Salman said opened his eyes to the true path. There he bought many books written by Mohammed ibn Abd al-Wahab, the founder of the strict Wahhabi school of thought adopted by the Saudi state.

“The books changed the way I look at Islam. I learned about monotheism and fighting tyrants,” said Abu Salman, wearing a black shirt and military-style camouflage.

Interspersed with jihadi chants in French, the video then features Abu Salman speaking about moving to Syria, where he headed to a training camp — two weeks were devoted to theology and two weeks to weapons training.

Men in black are seen crawling through red earth under barbed wire. Others were shooting assault rifles. Abu Salman was assigned to protect Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate in Iraq and Syria against Kurdish fighters seeking to destroy it.

Others served Islamic State as doctors or engineers and all are able to bring their wives and children, according to Abu Salman.

The video then shows him mixing with locals and buying dates at a shop on an orderly street in Syria, images in stark contrast with the videos of executions and eyewitness reports of brutal treatment of the population under Islamic State rule.

The end of the video broadcasts a threat to Europe emphasized by footage of French President Francois Hollande, British Prime Minister David Cameron and U.S. President Barack Obama.

An Islamic State militant who identifies himself as Abu Salman speaks at an undisclosed location, in this still image taken from undated video distributed by Islamic State on November 14, 2015. REUTERS/Social Media Website via Reuters TV

“We tell the European tyrants you have declared war on the Islamic State. This war that you declared is now turning against you. So know that the lions of the caliphate are only a few kilometers away from your borders,” said Abu Salman.

It also urges young Muslim men in the West to join the caliphate by making the trip to its heartland in Syria or Libya and other parts of Africa.

“Know that the lions of the caliphate are in your cities they are in Paris, they are in France. They are in all European capitals. They just await one order to do what they have to do,” Abu Salman said.

Editing by Philippa Fletcher

0 : 0
  • narrow-browser-and-phone
  • medium-browser-and-portrait-tablet
  • landscape-tablet
  • medium-wide-browser
  • wide-browser-and-larger
  • medium-browser-and-landscape-tablet
  • medium-wide-browser-and-larger
  • above-phone
  • portrait-tablet-and-above
  • above-portrait-tablet
  • landscape-tablet-and-above
  • landscape-tablet-and-medium-wide-browser
  • portrait-tablet-and-below
  • landscape-tablet-and-below