Paris police identify French IS group suspect ‘with key links to terror plots’
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Rashid Kassim, a French citizen and suspected member of the Islamic State group, has emerged as a key figure in a string of terrorist plots in France, including the arrest of a minor in Paris and a failed gas attack near the Notre Dame Cathedral.
As investigators have combed through the evidence in a number of recent Islamic State (IS) group-linked plots, one name has continued to crop up: Rashid Kassim.
Kassim was most recently linked to a 15-year-old boy arrested over the weekend in Paris on suspicion of plotting an imminent “act of violence”, a source close to the inquiry told AFP, who said the two had been in communication via the encrypted messenger service Telegram.
He is also believed to have “remotely guided” Inès M., one of several women currently held in connection with a car filled with gas canisters found near the French capital’s famed Notre Dame Cathedral last week, a judiciary source told Reuters.
Kassim, 29, lived in the small, central town of Roanne, where he worked at a community centre before he became radicalised during a trip to Algeria, according to local newspaper, Le Dauphine Libéré. Shortly afterwards, he left France to join jihadists fighting abroad in 2012, the newspaper also reported. He stopped briefly in Egypt before travelling to Iraq and Syria. His current whereabouts remain unknown.
Link to murder of priest
French media are reporting that Kassim, who is known for his use of social media, has frequently called for attacks on targets in France through the Telegram messenger service.
He recently took to Telegram to urge further violence after last week’s failed car attack in Paris, French newspaper Le Monde reported.
“Women, sisters have moved to attack. Where are the brothers?... She brandished a knife and she hit a policeman… Where are the men?” the newspaper quoted him as saying. One of the women detained in the case stabbed a police officer during her arrest on Thursday.
In addition to the past week’s events, he is believed to have inspired Adel Kermiche and Abdel Malik Petitjean, who brutally murdered an 86-year-old priest, Father Jacques Hamel, at a church in the northern town of Saint-Etienne du Rouvray on July 26.
He is also suspected of having links to Larossi Abballa, who stabbed police commander Jean-Baptiste Salvaing and officer Jessica Schneider to death at their home in the western Paris suburb of Magnanville on June 13. Abballa, who had claimed allegiance to the IS group, was later killed in a dramatic raid by elite police forces.
France foils terror plots 'daily'
“Abballa was a part of his Telegram group, and Kassim had a real influence on this case,” a source close to the investigation told AFP.
Details of Kassim’s role as the suspected mastermind of several recent attacks in France emerged as the government warned of further terrorist attacks in future.
“Every day, intelligence services, police, military police are thwarting attacks, dismantling Iraqi-Syrian networks, tracking terrorists,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls told French media on Sunday. “There will be new attacks, there will be innocent victims.”
Valls said that nearly 15,000 people are believed to have been radicalised in France. He added that, overall, 1,350 have been jailed and are under investigation, 293 of whom are being held on suspicion of having direct ties to terrorist networks.