By Patrick BAHZAD - updated on August 25th, 5 a.m. EST
It has been three days now since Ayoub Al-Khazzani, the shooter of the Amsterdam to Paris train, was taken into custody. Under French anti-terrorism law, investigators can keep a suspect for up to 96 hours (4 days) before charging him with anything. What is known so far fits a pattern that has been seen previously in several high-profile terrorism cases.
Similarities with other notorious Jihadi gunmen are striking in more than just one way, yet authorities are still reluctant to admit Khazzani is an Islamic terrorist. Investigators and counter-terrorism experts however have much less doubt about the kind of individual they are dealing with. All too often already, they have come across the type of personality and curriculum such as Ayoub Al-Khazzani's.
From Morocco to Spain
Born in Morocco in 1989, Khazzani grew up in the North of the country, in the city of Tetuan. Interestingly, this city has a long history as a hotbed of Jihadi terrorism. In January 2007 for example, the most important Moroccan network sending fighters into Iraq was dismantled in Tetuan. At the time, 32 locals were arrested and later sentenced to long prison terms.
Additionally, the five Moroccan nationals who had perpetrated the terrible Madrid train attacks of 2004 were all from Tetuan. Three weeks after the bombings, they were rounded up by Spanish police and blew themselves up rather than surrender. A sizable fraction of Moroccan suicide bombers who went to Iraq in the mid-2000s were also from Tetuan.
And finally, it has to be mentioned that no later than two months ago, a public demonstration of the city's Salafi preachers and their followers took place officially - quite an event in its own right in the Sherifian Realm - calling for implementation of Sharia law in the country.
Ayoub was 18 when his family left Tetuan for Spain, in 2007. They first lived in Madrid for three years, before moving south to Algesiras. Oddly enough, it seems the Khazzani family had a particular talent for picking up places known for their Islamic radicalism. Just as the slums of "Jamaë Mezouak" in Tetuan were and still are a stronghold of Salafism, so was the neigbhorhood of "El Saladillo" in Algesiras, home to the Khazzani family since 2010.