French spy agency denies Toulouse gunman was an informant
March 28, 2012 1 Comment
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS| intelNews.org |
France’s domestic intelligence agency has denied allegations, made by its former Director, that it employed as an informant the militant Islamist who recently killed seven people in Toulouse. Yves Bonnet, who headed France’s DCRI between 1982 and 1985, made the allegation in an interview with La Dépêche du Midi, one of France’s largest regional newspapers, headquartered in Toulouse. He was speaking about Mohammed Merah, the self-confessed al-Qaeda militant who died in a police assault on his flat last week. He was traced there after he murdered seven people, including three children and three soldiers, in three separate attacks. Speaking to La Dépêche on Tuesday, Bonnet said that Merah “was known to the DCRI, not especially because he was an Islamist, but because he kept contact with a correspondent [officer] in domestic intelligence”. By “correspondent in domestic intelligence”, Bonnet meant that Merah had a handler inside the DCRI, who met with him on a regular basis. But Bonnet’s claim was forcefully rejected on the same day by Bernard Squarcini, the current Director of the DCRI —France’s equivalent of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation. Squarcini confirmed that Merah did in fact meet with a DCRI officer in November in 2011. But he said that the meeting was arranged so that the DCRI officer could interview Merah about his trips to Afghanistan, which he entered in 2010 and 2011 using a tourist visa. Squarcini denied that this meeting designated Merah as an informant, and specifically stated that the self-styled al-Qaeda militant “was not employed as an informant by the DCRI or by any other French intelligence agency”. Earlier this week it emerged that Merah’s frequent trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan had caused Washington to include his name on a no-fly list reserved for suspected Islamist militants. A host of French politicians and state officials have expressed support for the DCRI and its leadership, in light of criticism issued by the French media for the agency’s failure to capture Merah before he killed seven people in Toulouse. Late last week, French Minister of the Interior, Claude Geant, said that Merah was one of “a lot of suspects who are followed by the DCRI [because they are] involved in Islamist radicalism”, and argued that “expressing [radical] ideas or exhibiting salafist views are not in themselves sufficient to lead to detention” under French law.