By DAVID SAMUELS
Mohamed Merah, the 23-year-old Islamist gunman who hunted down three Jewish children and a rabbi after murdering three French paratroopers in Toulouse last month, didn't act alone. In his journey from the slums of Toulouse, to the local mosques, to the terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan that he described to French police, to filming his murder of the terrified children in order to post video clips on the web, Mr. Merah was following a path marked out years earlier by the coldblooded jihadist theoretician Abu Musab al-Suri.
[SURI] European Pressphoto Agency
Abu Musab al-Suri, in an undated photo released by the U.S. government's Rewards for Justice program around 2004. He's been called 'the most dangerous terrorist you've never heard of.
What is perhaps more disturbing, Mr. al-Suri was recently set free from prison in Damascus, Syria, and his current whereabouts are unknown. Turned over to Syria after his capture by the CIA in late 2005, Mr. al-Suri was released sometime in December (according to intelligence sources and jihadist websites) by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad—a move apparently intended to warn the West of the consequences for opposing his rule.
Barely noticed in the midst of Mr. Assad's own brutal assaults on civilians, Mr. al-Suri's release may well contribute to the emergence of more attackers like Mr. Merah in the West. "His videos are already being reuploaded. His audios, reposted," wrote Jarret Brachman, a former CIA analyst and the former director of West Point's Center for Combating Terrorism, in a blog post after the news of Mr. al-Suri's release first appeared on jihadist sites.