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ISIS Video Appears to Show Paris Assailants Earlier in Syria and Iraq
The Islamic State released a video on Sunday apparently showing footage of the men who carried out the November attacks in Paris while they were in Syria and Iraq, where they are pictured carrying out executions, including beheadings.
If the identities of all of the men in the video are confirmed, it would be the first evidence that the group that killed 130 people in coordinated attacks in Paris on Nov. 13 had been sent from the Islamic State's base in Syria.
The video makes it clear that the Paris attacks were not just inspired by the Islamic State, but rather carried out by core members of the terrorist group, who had been trained and vetted in Syria before being tapped to carry out attacks on European soil. It also aims to show that the assailants — nearly all of whom had European passports — had been carrying out atrocities in the group's name long before their return to Europe.
It is unclear why it took the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, more than two months to release the video, which also includes numerous images of the Paris attacks. Under the headline "Target Area: Paris," it shows frantic televised scenes of soccer players and fans reacting to explosions at the Stade du France, and chaos on the streets near the Bataclan and other venues where the mass shootings took place.
Charlie Winter, a senior researcher at the Transcultural Conflict and Violence Initiative at Georgia State who monitors jihadist propaganda, said if the group had published the video immediately after the Nov. 13 attacks, it would have been swallowed in the wave of coverage.
"We know that their propaganda wing is very patient and happy to bide their time until the product they have is deemed to be perfect," he said.
The Islamic State began teasing the release of the video last week in Dabiq, its monthly magazine, where a still image of the video appeared. Several of the assailants pictured in Syria or Iraq are seen wearing what appear to be lapel microphones suggesting that they were recording themselves.
The existence of a prerecorded video is important in the debate on whether the attackers were sent by the Islamic State itself or were simply inspired to act in its name. In some of the most devastating terrorist attacks, including the 2005 London bombings, the assailants recorded statements that they were acting on behalf of Al Qaeda.
A possible motivation for the new extended video is to avoid the confusion that followed the January 2015 terrorist attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, where the absence of such a video caused analysts to doubt if Saïd and Chérif Kouachi had indeed been sent by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as they claimed. At least one of the brothers is known to have traveled to Yemen to train with the terrorist group, and more than a year later most experts agree that it played a role in the attack, though the extent of control-and-command remains a matter of debate.
In the ISIS video released Sunday, seven of the Paris attackers are shown addressing the camera, one by one, on a windswept dune. The youngest of the group, Bilal Hadfi, 20 — who wept when he said goodbye to his mother in Belgium before leaving for Syria last year — is shown with a prisoner kneeling at his feet.
He pushes the man to the ground and beheads him.
Samy Amimour, from the Drancy suburb of Paris whose 67-year-old father traveled to Syria in a failed attempt to retrieve him, smiles as he holds a captive's head.
And Omar Ismail Mostefai, who detonated a suicide vest inside the Bataclan concert hall, is shown holding another victim by the nape of his neck. "Know that we have received an order from the emir of the Believers to kill you wherever you are," he says, using the honorific for the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
One of the few attackers who is not shown executing a captive is Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who appears in a room with the ISIS flag.
"We will not stop fighting you in every part of the world regardless of whether you are on a tourism trip or a work trip," he says in French. "So expect more. Expect a mujahid to show up to kill you."
The video also states that ISIS has plans to attack Britain. It shows images of politicians, including Prime Minister David Cameron, as they authorize military action against the group.
[Source: By Rukmini Callimachi, The New York Times, Paris, 24Jan16]
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