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Two Who Moved Through Europe’s Revolving-Door Prisons Get Terrorist Designation
Authorities say former members of a Paris neighbourhood gang ended up aiding the Charlie Hebdo attack, recruiting militant fighters to Syria
 
The U.S. government has labeled as specially designated terrorists two French fugitives who during the past 15 years have risen from street crime to alleged front-line roles in the Charlie Hebdo attacks and terrorist violence in Tunisia and Syria. 
 
The announcement today by the State Department targeted Peter Cherif and Boubaker Hakim. They are former members of a crew of a dozen young militants from the Buttes-Chaumont neighborhood in northeast Paris who went to Iraq to fight U.S. troops in 2003. Some died in battle, while others were arrested and eventually convicted of terrorist offenses in France. 
 
As ProPublica recently reported in a story that examined the Buttes-Chaumont crew, the foreign fighter threat has been exacerbated by Europe’s weak prison sentencing policies for terrorism and other violent crimes. French counterterror officials say that both Cherif and Hakim could still be behind bars if French courts had imposed stiffer punishment for their well-documented exploits as al Qaida militants fighting U.S. troops in Iraq. 
Despite aggressive intelligence work and strong antiterror laws, European terrorists often serve less than ten years for offenses that would carry terms of 20 years to life in the United States. Many European foreign fighters now joining ISIL and al Qaeda are repeat offenders who did time for terrorism and have returned to the fray, according to counter-terror officials. This worsens a rise in radicalization and the unprecedented number of foreign fighters, challenging the capacity of European counter-terror agencies to monitor suspected terrorists.
By labeling militants as Specially Designated Global Terrorists, the U.S. government uses an executive order to sanction them, block any assets subject to U.S. jurisdiction and prevent U.S. persons from engaging in transactions with them. The measure is used to single out prominent terrorists to governments around the world.
Cherif, 32, is now believed to be in Yemen with al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, according to the State Department. French and U.S. counterterror officials say Cherif played a key role in this year’s plot against the Charlie Hebdo magazine.
In 2011, he allegedly helped provide al Qaida training, direction and funds to Cherif Koauchi, a fellow member of the Buttes-Chaumont crew who visited him in Yemen, according to French and U.S officials. Kouachi, his brother and another terrorist died in shootouts after killing 17 people during the attacks in Paris in January.
Hakim, 31, is a foreign fighter with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the State Department said. In 2013, he released a video claiming responsibility for the assassinations of two… Continue Reading…
 
 
 

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