TEL AVIV, Israel — Missing from the media coverage surrounding the Paris terror attacks is that last year a well-known jihadi website with ties to al-Qaida called on supporters to carry out lone wolf attacks inside France.
Significantly, the al Minbar Jihadi Media Network also called for the assassination of President Francois Hollande, who was inside the soccer stadium hit by two suicide bombers during the Paris attacks.
In March 2014, the SITE monitoring service documented al Minbar’s call-to-arms, which came in the form of six posters that were published as part of the website’s “We will not be silent, O France” campaign.
“To our lone-wolves in France, assassinate the president of disbelief and criminality, terrify his cursed government, and bomb them and scare them as a support to the vulnerable in the Central African Republic,” one of the posters advertised.
The Al Minbar Jihadi Media Network publishes propaganda for al Qaeda affiliates, including al-Qaeda in the Maghreb. It is particularly active in Mali.
The website said its anti-France posters came in response to French military campaigns in Mali and the Central African Republic, where France has maintained 2,000 soldiers as part of a 6,000-strong African Union peacekeeping mission.
At the time, Hollande responded directly to the threats, saying, “We are extremely vigilant” and “It’s not the first time there are threats.”
The Mali branch of Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb is particularly capable and has international connections. It has been led by Algerian terrorist Mokhtar Belmokhtar, now the strongman of the group Al-Murabitoun.
Belmoktar claimed responsibility for a January 2013 attack on an Algeria gas facility in which at last 39 foreign hostages were killed during a three-day siege.
He has also been connected to the September 11, 2012 Benghazi attack. In May 2013, CNN quoted a source saying that several Yemeni men belonging to Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, took part in the Benghazi attacks. The source further revealed that counterterrorism officials learned the identity of the three men and traced them to northern Mali, where they are believed to have linked up with Belmoktar’s organization.
Another intelligence source told CNN that Belmoktar had received a call in the aftermath of the Benghazi attack from someone in or close to the city. The person on the other end of the call declared, “Mabruk, Mabruk!” meaning “congratulations” in Arabic, according to the source.
ISIS has released an official message claiming responsibility for the Paris attacks. The message warns that “France and those who follow its path must know that they remain the principle targets of the Islamic State.”
The statement continues:
… Having dared insult our Prophet, having bragged about fighting Islam in France and striking Muslims in the Caliphate with their planes which have not helped them in any way in the ill-smelling streets of Paris.
This attack is just the start of a storm and a warning for those who wish to draw lessons.