A French national known as an Islamic State recruiter and executioner, believed by some to be the real ringleader of the Paris terror attacks, will go on trial in Paris this week although he is thought to be in Syria.
Salim Benghalem, an Islamic State recruiter and ‘chief executioner’ who grew up in Cachan, near Paris, will be tried on charges that he was involved in running a recruitment network for the jihadi group, reports The Local. Five others will also be tried, but unlike Mr. Benghalem who is believed to be in Syria, they will attend court in person.
It is understood that Mr. Benghalem has been targeted by recent French air strikes in Syria. A security source previously told AFP that French intelligence services are aware of his “active participation in combat” in Syria, where he is listed as a “foreign terrorist combatant” by the United States.
French security authorities first became aware of Mr. Benghalem due to his involvement in the Buttes-Chaumont jihadi network in Paris, the terrorist group that included the Charlie Hebdo killers Said and Cherif Kouachi.
Some suspect he is the real ringleader of the recent Paris terror attacks, and the instructor of the so-called mastermind, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who was killed in a police raid five days after the atrocities.
Prior to his jihadi activity Mr. Benghalem was jailed in 2007 for violent gang crime. Released in 2010, it is thought he then travelled to Yemen, eventually leaving his family to start a new life in Syria in 2013. His wife told French newspaper Le Parisien that he became “fatalistic and insensitive to death” after leaving France.
“Salim told me that if he returned, it would be to try and cause maximum damage,” she said, adding that he told her that the damage would not involve bombing but rather “a series of attacks”.