Anotorious terrorist recruiter linked to a string of Isil-inspired attacks in France has been killed in an American drone strike in Iraq, French police sources said on Friday.
The report came as French police thwarted an “imminent” suicide attack, possibly on a Paris tourist site, with the arrests of four suspected Isil recruits, including a 16-year-old girl, who were manufacturing explosives.
Rachid Kassim is believed to have been killed on Wednesday near Mosul, an Isil stronghold in northern Iraq. The 29-year-old Frenchman allegedly masterminded the murders last year of a French police couple and that of an elderly priest whose throat was slit in a Normandy church. He was also linked to the attacksat Brussels Airport and the city’s subway in March which left 32 dead.
French sources said the information had come from the US military and French intelligence was checking that it was Kassim who died, according to BFM television.
Kassim was a leading online Isil recruiter who was also linked to a failed attempt to set off explosives near Notre-Dame cathedral in the heart of Paris.
After the Nice lorry attack last July, video footage appeared online showing Kassim beheading captives. He directly threatened President François Hollande and warned that Isil was planning more attacks in France.
Isil-inspired terrorists have killed more than 230 people in France since the beginning of 2015 and the country remains under a state of emergency.
The arrests on Friday were made near Montpellier, in southern France, after intelligence agents monitored social media postings by the teenage girl, named locally as Sara, in which she said she wanted to attack France and go to Syria or Iraq.
France’s top constitutional court on Friday overturned a law imposing prison sentences for consulting jihadist websites.
The law was introduced last June, seven months after the Paris attacks that left 130 dead. Intended to curb the influence of jihadist websites and online propaganda, it set a two-year prison sentence for consulting jihadist websites regularly, making exceptions for purposes of research or informing the public.
Judges ruled yesterday (Fri) that the law was unconstitutional because it infringed freedom of communication, saying France had other laws to protect the public from attacks and jail potential terrorists.
However, several attacks have been carried out by suspects under surveillance. One of the two 19-year-old Isil recruits who attacked a church in Normandy during mass last year was under house arrest and wore an electronic tag. A court had allowed him to go out without the tag for several hours a day.