Amidst the French police siege on Toulouse shooter Mohammed Merah's apartment on March 22, 2012, a post on the Shumukh al-Islam jihadist forum, the online primary source for al-Qaeda's propaganda, claimed responsibility for Merah's March 19th shooting at the Ozar Hatorah Jewish day school that killed three students and a rabbi.

The claim was posted by a forum member calling himself "Haider al-Khurasani" on behalf of the jihadist group "Jund al-Khilafah," which had previously claimed operations in Afghanistan and Kazakhstan. While the message was soon deleted from the Shumukh forum, it remained posted on the Ansar al-Mujahideen forum for a short while, where it was uploaded by a member named "Jund al-Khilafah." Days later, on April 1, 2012, the same member, "Jund al-Khilafah," posted another message, describing his personal experiences with Merah in Pakistan. It is now uncovered that the Tunisian militant Moez Garsalloui, the second husband of Belgian-Moroccan jihadist Malika El Aroud, made the post claiming responsibility for the attacks and the relationship with Merah.


The ties between Merah and Garsalloui, formerly a high-profile jihadist recruiter and propagandist based in Belgium and Switzerland, were revealed in an October 15, 2012, post announcing the death of Moez Garsalloui. The message, titled, "Martyrdom of Commander Abu Moez al-Tunisi, the Activist with the Username Jund al-Khilafah or al-Qayrawani," identified him as the Emir of Jund al-Khilafah and related that he was killed during a raid, after having escaped other bombings while in Miran Shah, North Waziristan.

The eulogy described Garsalloui as keenly interested in the export of jihad and the conduct of international jihadist operations, including those against Europe. He reportedly trained several Kazakh fighters in military "arts" in order that they might carry out jihadi operations in Kazakhstan. Indeed, between October and December 2011, fighters under the Jund al-Khilafah banner in Kazakhstan clashed with soldiers in Almaty and carried out two bombings in Atyrau.

The group's media arm, the Minbar Media Project, attested to its international scope in an October 2011 interview that it conducted with one of the group's officials, Rawil Kusaynov. When asked about Jund al-Khilafah, Kusaynov said that the group is composed of several battalions, most of which work in Afghanistan and in other parts of the world, but he did not indicate a presence in Europe.

Not only did the October 15 eulogy announce Garsalloui's role as Emir of Jund al-Khilafah, but it confirmed his association with user accounts linked to Jund al-Khilafah on jihadist forums through which the group issued claims of responsibility. While the Shumukh account "Haider al-Khurasani" was known as the online representative of Jund al-Khilafah and posted claims for attacks by the group, this was only one of several online personas that Garsalloui used on jihadist forums in recent years. Among these other personas are: "al-Qayrawani," "Abu Muez al-Qayrawani," and "Jund al-Khilafah."

Jund al-Khalifah's Claims of Responsibility for Mohammed Merah's Attacks

The Jund al-Khilafah communiqué claiming responsibility for Merah's shootings, titled "Statement from Jund al-Khilafah Regarding the Operations in France," and posted to jihadist forums on March 22, 2012, can be seen below:


{Jund al-Khilafah's claim of responsibility}

In the message, the group referred exclusively to the third of his attacks, outside the Ozar Hatorah Jewish day school in Toulouse, France, and claimed that "Yusuf al-Firansi," Merah's nom de guerre, carried out an operation on March 19 that "shook the foundations of Zio-Crusaderdom." The group did not identify Yusuf as Merah, nor did it mention the shooter's other attacks on March 11 and March 15, nor his death during a police siege on his apartment on March 22.

Jund al-Khilafah called upon France to cease targeting Muslims and threatened to retaliate for Muslim bloodshed in Afghanistan and the Palestinian Territories, as well as for Muslim women who are imprisoned in European countries and Israel.

The message reads:

"Minbar Media Project Presents:

Statement from Jund al-Khilafah Regarding the Operations in France

"In the Name of Allah, the most Gracious and Merciful

"Praise be to Allah alone. Peace and prayer be upon the noblest of the Messengers.

"On Tuesday, 19 March, one of the knights of Islam, our brother Yusuf al-Firansi [the French], we ask Allah to accept him, went out in an operation that shook the foundations of Zio-Crusaderdom in the whole world and filled the hearts of the enemies of Allah with fear. While we claim our responsibility for these blessed operations, we say that the crimes that Israel is committing against our people in the pure land of Palestine, and in Gaza in particular, will not pass without punishment. The mujahideen everywhere are determined to retaliate for every drop of blood that was spilled unjustly and aggressively in Palestine, Afghanistan, and other Muslim countries.

"So, O enemies of Islam, by Allah, we will not rest and our eyelids will not shut until we get you like you got us, and until we take revenge for the honors of the free women from amongst our sisters who in the prisons of the Jews and the European countries.

We call on the French government to reconsider its policies towards Muslims in the world and to abandon its hostile tendency towards Islam and its Shariah, because such a policy will only bring woe and destruction.

"As for the Jews, we say to them: do not be deceived by what you have now. By Allah, we will have a meeting with you for which we long more than we long to marry the most beautiful brides in this world. Our appointment with you is soon and it will bring you woes that you will see from us, with permission from Allah.

"'And Allah has full power and control over His Affairs, but most of men know not.'[From Yusuf 12:21]

"Tariq ibn Ziyad Battalion

Jund al-Khilafah Brigade

Thursday, 29 Rabie al-Thani 1433

Corresponding to 22/03/2012"

Personal Ties Between Moez Garsalloui and Mohammed Merah

Mohammed Merah's association with Jund al-Khilafah was further explicated in a message posted to jihadist forums on April 1, 2012 by one of Garsalloui's user accounts. The post can be seen below:


{"Yusuf al-Firansi, as I Knew Him"}

The message, titled "Yusuf al-Firansi, as I Knew Him," was written by a Jund al-Khilafah member using the name "Abu al-Qa'qa' al-Andalusi", who described bonding with Merah over their shared knowledge of French and Merah's lack of fluency in Arabic. The author even claimed that he "was for a short time one of those who guided him."

Describing their meeting, "Abu al-Qa'qa' al-Andalusi" wrote:

"I first met Yusuf when he came to visit us in the company of some other brothers, and during the discussion, I noticed that he did not speak the language of the Arabs well. He tried with difficulty to express what was going through his mind with the other brothers. When I asked him about his mother tongue, he answered in French. I proceeded to speak in the language that he mastered... He became happy and he began to talk and asked me to help him translate the meaning of his words to others... From his southern accent, I guessed he was from Marseille; however, he told me that he is from Toulouse. Since then, the relationship between us strengthened and the brother began to visit every day, which allowed me to get to know him very well..."

According to Abu al-Qa'qa', Merah joined Jund al-Khilafah during his second attempt to reach the jihadi battlefields. Although he failed to connect with the Taliban during his first trip, which resulted in his capture and deportation to France, Merah later traveled to Islamabad and successfully reached the Taliban, who "facilitated his arrival to the tribal areas" where he joined Jund al-Khilafah.

The statement claimed that after Merah's first attempt to reach the Taliban, he:

"...returned to France from Afghanistan, where he arranged for a visa to Pakistan under the pretext of business, so he came to it. Allah granted him success this time, and in Islamabad he came to know some people who took him to the Taliban and who, on their part, facilitated his arrival to the tribal areas, where he eventually ended up joining our brigade."

"Abu al-Qa'qa' al-Andalusi" also noted that Merah had a great love for weapons, but that "he did not desire to train in explosives, even though that was available to him...He preferred fighting with weapons, as he told me." In the end, Merah was assigned to an assassination operation in France.

Garasalloui's Links to European Jihadist Networks

Before leaving for the Afghanistan/Pakistan region, Garsalloui was already a high-profile jihadist in Europe, where he had operated a Swiss-based Arabic and French-language jihadist website. Garsalloui and his wife, Belgian-Moroccan jihadist Malika El Aroud, were convicted by a Swiss court in June 2007 for running websites that supported terrorism. Garsalloui served three weeks in a Swiss prison, moving to Belgium to join El Aroud after his release. In Belgium, he and El Aroud were accused of recruiting jihadists to leave the country to fight in Afghanistan. Garsalloui subsequently left Europe for Afghanistan in late 2007.

However, despite having left the continent, his influence with European jihadists continued: Garsalloui was identified as a link between al-Qaeda's leadership and a network of Belgian jihadists that was disrupted after raids in Brussels and Liège on December 11, 2008, and which resulted in the arrests of fourteen jihadists. The network was accused of planning an imminent attack, and those arrested included individuals who had been under intelligence surveillance for over a year.

Once in Afghanistan, Garsalloui remained active on jihadist forums using the names "Jund al-Khilafah" and "al-Qayrawani." He retained a focus on Europe, as indicted by an October 8, 2008 Arabic and French-language message released to the al-Hesbah jihadist forum attributed to Garsalloui – using the name "Moez al-Qayrawani" - in which he called the Swiss to embrace Islam, cease harming Muslims, and cease their cooperation with the United States. Additionally, Garsalloui had been accused of advising Belgian jihadists on how to reach the battlefields in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Among the jihadists he guided to jihad is Hicham Beyayo, identified as a deputy for Garsalloui in Belgium whom he recruited in a Belgian mosque. Advised by Garsalloui, Beyayo traveled to Pakistan in early 2008 where he reportedly received training before returning to Belgium. Once in Belgium, Beyayo engaged in correspondence suggesting that he had a "green light" to carry out an attack.

In conclusion, despite leaving Europe for the jihadi battlefields and training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Garsalloui retained his focus on recruiting jihadists for attacks in Europe. As a leading propagandist, explosives expert and trainer, and leader of Jund al-Khilafah, he ultimately succeeded in having an attack carried out against military and civilian targets in France. Now that he has been killed, the ties between Garasalloui and Mohammed Merah have been uncovered.