Mohammed Merah was French born of Algerian origins and with a chequered past. Radicalisation in the Asian battlegrounds came after a delinquent adolescence.
He accrued a string of convictions mostly for theft, some involving violence. He later served time in a French jail.
But that was not enough to prick the interest of French intelligence.
Merah’s lawyer Christian Etelin explained:” He had been kept under surveillance because he went to Afghanistan. But he came back and behaved like someone completely sane, not at all crazy. He didn’t give the impression of being fanatical.”
Merah spent a year in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region. He said that while there he underwent military training with al Qaeda. His brother, who is being questioned by investigators, is known to have helped smuggle Jihadist militants into Iraq in 2007.
Roland Jacquard, Head of International Terrorism Observatory said: “Today, training camps also mean the internet, cyberspace and this is why the anti-terrorism services need to multiply their surveillance of these websites because it’s through these websites that they receive instructions or they self-radicalise themselves.”
One group which may have recruited Merah is the extremist organisation ‘Forsane Alizza’ which means ‘Knights of Pride’. It is a group the French government ordered to disband for inciting racial hatred.