Seven men accused of being part of the "19th quarter network", a Paris-based group which funneled young fighters to Iraq, have been sentenced for up to seven years in prison. Five of them are French citizens, while the other two are from North Africa.
The group was arrested in 2005, after a young Frenchman was found dead in Falluja in 2004, leading the authorities to the French network. Investigators said the alleged network funneled about a dozen French fighters to Iraq through Syria and was planning to send even more recruits before Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed in 2006.
The network was headed by Farid Benyettou (seen in the picture above), a young Imam at a local Mosque near Paris, who allegedly used his position to recruit young men and influence them. At least two members of the network went to Iraq at some point by themselves as well: Boubakeur el-Hakim, whose brother was killed in Iraq, urged young men to go to Iraq in a French radio interview from Baghdad in 2003, and Mohammed el-Ayouni, who lost an arm and an eye fighting in Iraq.
This case serves not only as another example of the phenomenon where young European Muslims join the fight against the coalition forces in Iraq, but also as a reminder of the imminent threat posed by "Iraqi veterans" going back to their homeland. In this case, only some of the members had been to Iraq by themselves, and once they got back they established a logistical network sending more men to the battlefield. Other "Iraqi veterans" may follow the same steps in the future, but could just as easily use their skills and experience from Iraq to execute terror attacks in their own country.
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