On the evening of November 13, 2015, ten terrorists spread out at the Stade de France, on the terraces of restaurants and cafes and at the Bataclan. Only one is still alive: Salah Abdeslam. But during that tragic night, the Islamic State group had planned to deploy two other terrorists: Adel Haddadi, a 34-year-old Algerian, and Muhammad Usman, a 28-year-old Pakistani. But when they arrived from Syria and were traveling in the company of two of the Stade de France terrorists (Iraqis Mohammad Al-Mahmod and Ahmad Al-Mohammad), they were arrested on the island of Leros where their forgeries passports had been spotted by the Greek authorities. The two Iraqis had been able to continue on their disastrous path.
After a month in prison in Greece, Haddadi and Usman resumed their journey across Europe before being arrested on December 10, 2015, in a migrant camp in Salzburg (Austria).
“I asked myself a lot of questions”
This Friday, the Assize Court questioned one of these two men, Adel Haddadi. However, to listen to the latter, he would have been embarked on this suicide operation without his knowledge. Standing in the box, this trained pastry chef speaks in a low voice. He seems intimidated and does not place himself completely in front of the microphone, speaking most often in Arabic, sometimes in French which he understands.
When he left for Turkey in February 2015, he lied to his parents, pretending to go for a job.
My father and my mother would not have let me go otherwise. They were afraid of everything. Even at 28, to spend a night at a friend’s house, they did not agree, he says. The president is surprised. At that age, he still obeyed them!
Yes, replies the interested party.
Despite this family background, Adel Haddadi, who has had a number of small jobs (market sales, waiter, telephone salesman, mosquito repellent spreader, cook, etc.) has chosen to leave his relatives. Did he already intend to go to Syria? He says no.
I was a bit lost then. I had been touched by what was happening in Syria. I asked myself lots of questions.
Humanitarian with Kalashnikovs?
What is certain, however, is that he went to Syria where he joined the ranks of Daesh. At first, he stays two months in Al Rai where he follows military training for a week.
I learned to handle weapons. But once there, I didn’t know what they were going to make me do. Me, I thought of doing humanitarian work. The president of the assize court, Jean-Louis Périès, does not hide his astonishment:
Shooting with Kalashnikovs, I don’t see the connection with humanitarianism…
After two months, he was sent to Raqqa where he was given the kunya (warrior nickname) of Abu Assem. There, a Saudi ends up introducing him to Abou Ahmad who is none other than Osama Atar, the head of external operations of the Islamic State and presumed sponsor of the attacks in Paris and Brussels. The latter would then have told him that his mission was to reach France in the company of three other men, without however specifying to him for what precise purpose. A little later, the two Iraqis end up telling him that they were sent as suicide bombers.
Does he agree with this?
Verbally, I had said that I accepted, but deep down I didn’t agree, replies the accused who would therefore only have suffered the events. Again, the president of the assize court is surprised.
For the Islamic State, this mission is crucial. How do you explain that Daesh chose you, while Adel Haddadi claims to have never had any other role than that of cook?
They understood that I couldn’t say no, that I was a helpful person. Perhaps also they felt that one could not suspect that I came from the Islamic State…
Why didn’t he run away?
But many doubts remain. For his journey with his three companions, Adel Haddadi is given one of the group’s two phones and $3,000. It is therefore he, throughout the journey, who will have contact with Osama Atar. After his arrest in Greece and his one-month stay in prison, he resumed his journey in the company of Muhammad Usman and continued to have contact with Osama Atar who sent him, at the beginning of November 2015, a Western Union money order of 947 dollars. .
Why, then, continue? Can we not consider that you have continued your mission? The accused, once again, assures that it was not his intention, that his first concern was to leave this Greek prison:
We were in a cellar with a ceiling of 1.20 m. I was looking for solutions to get out of there, but I couldn’t find any.
The Advocate General insists:
Why, while you were in a refugee camp in Salzburg, Europe, did you not stop communicating with Osama Atar, the mastermind behind the attacks?
I was looking for the right moment to run away, replies the accused who says he condemns the attacks in Paris,
all acts of violence around the world and Daesh.
Still, this inability of the accused to extract himself from Daesh, when he was no longer in Syria, continues to question the various parties.
Why weren’t you able to say no?, asks his lawyer, Me Léa Dordilly?
It’s my personality. Now I work on myself, I work a lot with my psychologist. And Adel Haddadi to regret his mistakes:
Yes, I followed people who committed crimes in France. I joined them, I was in Syria. I hurt my whole family. Why did I leave my country, my family?