French counterterrorism officials detailed a "big coup" in the fight against al-Qaida, with the arrest of a senior terrorism recruiter and supplier, Time magazine reports. The unnamed suspect ran one of most active jihadi forums worldwide and also acted as a courier between core al-Qaida branches and its larger network of allied terrorist groups.
"Here's a guy who, as administrator of one of the biggest radical websites on earth, was the conduit of messages between the main jihadi groups in Yemen, Africa, Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere. And we've got his files. It's a big deal," unnamed French senior sources told Time. "This is a very intelligent, well-educated, experienced and organized expert in secure internet communication, and isn't the kind of professional extremist you turn up every day."
The June 29 arrest of a 35-year-old Tunisian living in the French city of Toulon turned up a trove of email correspondence between an unusually broad range of organizations. While communications between al-Qaida core groups are well-known, the messages show a greater level of cooperation with groups like Lebanon's Fatah al-Islam and Gaza's Jaish al-Islam.
The suspect gained the trust of senior al-Qaida leaders by 2008 and acted as an internet hub for "overseeing secure internet communications, raising funds; recruitment and transport of aspiring jihadi for indoctrination and military training; and providing information about bomb-building and potential targets," investigators said
Agents confirmed they are sure of his involvement in recruitment of at least five fighters for Afghani and Yemeni terror organizations, but suspect that figure will be much higher when they finish going through his files.