French journalist infiltrates IS cell to shoot documentary: report
03 May 2016
A French journalist reportedly infiltrated a cell of jihadists in the making and recorded their activities with a hidden camera as they plotted an attack in the name of the Islamic State group, before they were arrested, says an AFP report.
The journalist filmed a documentary over a six-month period, recording their activities regularly in order to understand the thought process of the young men who were "manipulated" into stepping into the world of violence, the report said.
The journalist, himself a Muslim, infiltrated the group using the pseudonym Said Ramzi, to carry out the investigation for the documentary entitled Allah's Soldiers, which gives an insight into the minds of young jihadists.
The documentary was shown in France on Monday night.
Ramzi is reported to have described himself as a Muslim "of the same generation as the killers" who carried out the 13 November terror attacks which left 130 people dead in Paris.
"My goal was to understand what was going on inside their heads," AFP quoted him as saying.
"One of the main lessons was that I never saw any Islam in this affair. No will to improve the world. Only lost, frustrated, suicidal, easily manipulated youths.
"They had the misfortune of being born in the era that the Islamic State exists. It is very sad. They are youngsters who are looking for something and that is what they found."
Ramzi is said to have interacted with the Johadist preachers on Facebook before making direct contact with the group.
He was then asked to meet a person called the "emir" of the group comprising about a dozen youth, in Chateauroux, a town in the centre-west of France, at an outdoor activities centre that was deserted in winter.
Some of the recruits were from Muslim families, while others were converts, according to Ramzi.
The so-called 'emir', a young French-Turkish citizen named Oussama, is reported to have tried to convince Ramzi (then called Abu Hamza) that he will reach paradise once he carries out a suicide mission.
"Towards paradise, that is the path," Oussama says, adding, "Come, brother, let's go to paradise, our women are waiting for us there, with angels as servants.
"You will have a palace, a winged horse of gold and rubies."
During another meeting in front of a mosque in the Paris suburb of Stains, one of the gang members is reported to have pointed to an airplane approaching the nearby Bourget airport.
"With a little rocket-launcher, you can easily get one of them... you do something like that in the name of Dawla (Islamic State), and France will be traumatised for a century."
One of the jihadist gang trying to reach the Islamic State group in Syria was arrested by Turkish police and handed back to France.
Although he was under police surveillance and had to report to the local police station every day under his release conditions, he continued to stay in touch with the group via encrypted messaging application Telegram to organise meetings at which plans to launch an attack took form.
"We must hit a military base," says Oussama. "When they are eating, they are all lined up ... ta-ta-ta-ta-ta," he added, mimicking the sound of automatic gunfire.
"Or journalists, BFM, iTele, they are at war against Islam," he says of the prominent French television stations.
"Like they did to Charlie. You must strike them at the heart. Take them by surprise. What do you want them to do? They aren't well protected. The French must die by the thousands."
In January 2015 two brothers attacked the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 people (See: Manhunt on as terror attack in Paris leaves at least 12 dead).
Razmi was put on the fast track when he was told to meet one Abu Suleiman who returned from Raqqa, the Islamic State group's capital in Syria, at a train station.
However, instead of Suleiman, it was a woman in a full-faced niqab veil who showed up and handed Ramzi a letter.
The letter lays out a plan of attack - target a night club, shoot "until death", wait for security forces and set off an explosives vest.
However the security noose tightens around the group at this point, and several members of the group are arrested.
One of them who avoided arrest sends a message to the journalist saying: "You're done for man".
"That is where my infiltration ended," said Ramzi.