How One of France’s Most Notorious Terrorists Came to Be Venerated as a Hero

During nine days in March 2012, Mohammed Merah killed three French soldiers in his native Toulouse and the nearby city of Montauban, before attacking a Jewish school where he murdered one adult and three children. Earlier this month, a French court convicted two men of “terrorism apologia” for posing on social media with a mock soccer jersey bearing Merah’s name and the number 7 (an apparent reference to the number of his victims). The stunt, writes Liam Duffy, is symptomatic of Merah’s status as a hero in the eyes of some Frenchmen:

Nicole Yardeni, a deputy mayor in [Toulouse], tells me that his name is sometimes viewed positively even outside of jihadist circles as “a symbol of rebellion” against society. After all, Merah is the man “who brought France to its knees,” as one local youth reminded the mother of his first victim. Even at the time of the police manhunt [for Merah] and siege [of his apartment], Facebook posts and pages honoring the gunman attracted thousands of likes, while police prevented people from laying flowers at his apartment.

Merah was no black sheep: his extended family nurtured an intense hatred of French society and Jews. His own brother, nicknamed locally after Osama Bin Laden, is thought to have joined the jihad in Iraq. His sister Souad was active in militant Salafist networks. She was part of an independent school established to raise model Muslims as defined by Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood—whose ideas had cross-pollinated in the densely populated housing estates. Souad, who declared she was “proud, proud, proud” of her brother for massacring Jews, would—like so many of Merah’s associates—eventually join Islamic State. Meanwhile, Merah’s stepbrother was the only Frenchman formally accused of crimes against humanity for his role in the Yazidi genocide.

Merah’s impact on the jihadist movement and European counterterrorism was profound, but so was his impact on Toulouse. I briefly moved to the city in the aftermath of the rampage, and the attack seemed to loom over its residents. It also weighed heavily on Toulouse’s Jewish community, as Yardeni, who headed a Jewish organization before joining the mayor’s office, estimates that hundreds of families took the . . . decision to leave.

Among those inspired by the attacks, notes Duffy, was one Mehdi Nemmouche, who eagerly followed them on television from a jail cell while they were happening, and would later fight with Islamic State in Syria before returning to Europe to kill four people at a Jewish museum in Brussels.

Read more at UnHerd

More about: Anti-Semitism, European Islam, French Jewry, ISIS, Jihadism

Iran Brings Its War on Israel and the U.S. to the High Seas

On Sunday, the Tehran-backed Houthi guerrillas, who have managed to control much of Yemen, attacked an American warship and three British commercial vessels in the Red Sea. This comes on the heels of a series of maritime attacks on targets loosely connected to Israel and the U.S., documented in the article below by Mark Dubowitz and Richard Goldberg. They explain that Washington must respond far more forcefully than it has been:

President Biden refuses to add the Houthis back to the official U.S. terror list—a status he revoked shortly after taking office. And [Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali] Khamenei keeps driving toward a weapon of mass destruction with the UN’s nuclear watchdog warning that Iran is increasing its production of high-enriched uranium while stonewalling inspectors.

Refreezing all cash made available to Iran over the last few months and cracking down on Iranian oil shipments to China are the easy first steps. Senators can force Biden’s hand on both counts by voting on two bills that passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support.

Next comes the reestablishment of U.S. military deterrence. America must defend itself and regional allies against any attempt by Iran to retaliate—a reassurance Riyadh and Abu Dhabi [also] need, given the potential for Tehran to break its de-escalation pact with the Gulf Arab states. By striking Iranian and Houthi targets, Biden would advance the cause of Middle East peace.  . . . Tehran will keep attacking Americans and U.S. allies unless and until he flashes American steel.

Read more at New York Post

More about: Gaza War 2023, Iran, Naval strategy, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen