Frenchman Plotting ‘Imminent’ Attack Is Charged With Terrorism

Paris-AP_863347869207 PARIS — A suspected Islamic State operative who was arrested last week had amassed a trove of guns and bomb-making equipment, including the type of explosive used in terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels, the French authorities announced on Wednesday, reinforcing fears that militants are planning additional assaults on Europe. The suspect, Reda Kriket, a 34-year-old Frenchman, was arrested on Thursday afternoon in Boulogne-Billancourt, a western suburb of Paris. That evening, the authorities raided a fourth-floor apartment Mr. Kriket had rented under a fake name in Argenteuil, a northwestern suburb that was once a popular weekend getaway and a subject for Impressionist painters. Inside the apartment, the authorities found “an arsenal of weapons and explosives of an unprecedented size,” which led them to believe Mr. Kriket had been planning an “imminent attack,” the Paris prosecutor, François Molins, said at a news conference on Wednesday evening, describing for the first time the scope of the plot. The arsenal included explosive materials — among them TATP, which was used in suicide bombs that were set off in Paris on Nov. 13 and in Brussels on March 22 — along with Kalashnikov assault rifles, a submachine gun, pistols, ammunition, four boxes containing thousands of small steel balls, stolen French passports, brand-new cellphones, a tear-gas canister and two computers with instructions to make explosives. A judge who focuses on terrorism cases charged Mr. Kriket on Wednesday with terrorist conspiracy, possession of weapons and explosives, and falsification of documents, among other offenses, Mr. Molins said. Mr. Kriket had an extensive criminal record, with multiple convictions for robbery, possession of stolen goods and acts of violence, Mr. Molins added. More recently, according to court records, Mr. Kriket raised money for a network of militants in 2012 and 2013. He and an accomplice, Anis Bahri, 32, are believed to have visited Syria between late 2014 and early 2015, Mr. Molins said. After returning to Europe, he said, they traveled back and forth among France, Belgium and the Netherlands. On July 29, a Belgian court convicted Mr. Kriket in absentia of financing a jihadist recruitment network with proceeds from robberies and other crimes. Abdelhamid Abaaoud, believed to have been the chief on-the-ground planner of the Paris attacks, was named in the same proceeding. Mr. Molins said that investigators had not uncovered a specific target or date for the planned attack and were trying to identify other accomplices. Under questioning, he said, Mr. Kriket denied being a terrorist, said he had rented the Argenteuil apartment on behalf of someone whom he would not name, and said the unidentified man and an accomplice were the bomb makers. Three men have been held in other countries on suspicion of working with Mr. Kriket. One is Mr. Bahri, whom the Dutch police arrested in the port city of Rotterdam on Sunday at the request of the French authorities. The other two are Algerians who were arrested in Brussels on Friday: Abderahmane Ameroud, 38, and a man identified only as Rabah M., 34. (He was previously identified as Rabah N. and Salah A.) Mr. Ameroud had been convicted of providing logistical support to two Tunisian suicide bombers who assassinated Ahmed Shah Massoud, an Afghan opposition leader, two days before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States. In 2005, Mr. Ameroud was found guilty of complicity in the murder. Mr. Ameroud was also linked to an Afghan and Pakistani network suspected of training would-be jihadists in a forest near Paris and in the French Alps. He was convicted of participation in a terrorist enterprise in 2007 and was thought to have been deported to Algeria after serving his sentence. On Wednesday, a court in Brussels delayed proceedings against him and Rabah M. to April 7, at the request of their lawyers. Also on Wednesday, a government official said that a file with the floor plan and photographs of the office of the Belgian prime minister had been found on a laptop computer discarded in a garbage can last week by one of the terrorists linked to the Brussels attacks. It was found during a raid in the Schaerbeek neighborhood hours after the attacks. Several Belgian newspapers, including L’Echo, De Tijd and De Morgen, reported that the information about the prime minister’s office, the site of regular meetings of cabinet ministers, had been found on the laptop. On the same computer, investigators found a statement, described by the authorities as a will, by Ibrahim el-Bakraoui, one of three suicide bombers in the attacks. In that statement, Mr. Bakraoui described himself as increasingly desperate and fearful of ending up in prison. He and another man, Najim Laachraoui, blew themselves up at Brussels Airport, and Mr. Bakraoui’s younger brother, Khalid, detonated a suicide bomb at the Maelbeek subway station. The attacks killed 32 people, a lower toll than previously reported, having been revised downward on Tuesday as the authorities finished identifying victims. Officials are seeking a third airport attacker and, according to Belgian reports, another person involved in the subway blast. Local news reports said the discarded computer also contained precise information about the prime minister’s residence on the Rue de la Loi, steps from the United States Embassy. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Prime Minister Charles Michel at the residence on Friday. European nations have come under increasing scrutiny for their response to terrorism. On Wednesday, President Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, Lisa O. Monaco, criticized allies, including France and Belgium, for failing to reduce barriers to the sharing of intelligence among agencies, as the United States did after the Sept. 11 attacks. Ms. Monaco’s remarks, at a security conference at the University of Texas at Austin, were one of the Obama administration’s sternest rebukes of its European partners since the Paris and Brussels attacks. “It’s fair to say that they have not had the same reaction that we did after we had 9/11,” which was “to share information amongst ourselves and to get into a position to share it very rapidly with our international partners,” Ms. Monaco said. Hours before Ms. Monaco spoke, Ard van der Steur, the Dutch minister for security and justice, said it had been the intelligence division of the New York Police Department, not the F.B.I., that warned the Netherlands on March 16 that the Bakraoui brothers had links to terrorism. Mr. van der Steur had previously testified before Dutch lawmakers that the warning came from the F.B.I., but in a statement on Wednesday, he said he had misspoken. It was not clear how the police in New York had become aware of the brothers. The Turkish government arrested Ibrahim el-Bakraoui near the Turkish border with Syria in June. Officials there alerted the Belgian government and then deported Mr. Bakraoui to the Netherlands at his request. Source