Former Ambassador, Human Rights Activist
I did not believe the official story of Hasna Ait Buolacehn the moment I saw it. The official line was that she was a suicide bomber who blew herself up when the police stormed the apartment in St Denis where the alleged terrorist ringleader was hiding out. But that story seemed to me completely incompatible with the recordings on which she could plainly be heard screaming “He is not my boyfriend! He is not my boyfriend” immediately before the explosion. She sounded like a terrified woman trying to disassociate herself from the alleged terrorist. It was a strange battle cry for someone who believed themselves on the verge of paradise.
Then yesterday the truth emerged from forensics that she was indeed not a suicide bomber. None of the mainstream media appeared to find this in any way troubling. And just in case anybody did, the BBC (and I assume all the French and major international media) then immediately did an interview with an anonymous member of the French Police attacking squad, who stated that Hasna was:
“trying to say she was not linked to the terrorists, that she had nothing to do with them and wanted to surrender”.
But he said that due to prior intelligence, “we knew that she was trying to manipulate us”.
Unfortunately this would have been a very great deal more convincing had it been stated 48 hours earlier, rather than only after the original reports that she was a suicide bomber had been corrected on forensic examination. As it is, it looks very much like a post facto justification, a new story to cover the new facts.
Besides, it is very difficult indeed to see what prior intelligence could explain if someone was genuinely trying to surrender or not. There appears to be no information available to the public that gives the slightest indication that Hasna was an extreme Islamist; what public information there is paints the opposite picture. The best the media have been able to dredge up are quotes from friends saying “if she was, then she must have been drugged or brainwashed”. Google it yourself.
But even were she an extreme Islamist, that does not mean she was not attempting to surrender. All of which is a bit nugatory if she were then killed by an explosion triggered by the terrorists themselves. But the changing story about Hasna makes me less than confident that is what actually happened.
I have no difficulty with the principle that the police should shoot people who are shooting at them. I outraged many friends on the left for example by not joining in the criticism of the police for killing Mr Duggan. People who choose to carry guns in my view run a legitimate risk of being shot by the police, it is as simple as that. Jean Charles De Menezes was a totally different case and his murder by police completely unjustifiable. In Paris it appears plain that the police were in a situation of confrontation with armed suspects.
There are severe intelligence disadvantages to killing people with profound knowledge of terrorist organisations. It also cheats the justice system. Nevertheless I can conceive of situations where simply taking out by an explosion a terrorist cell might be justified. But only if you are quite certain of the situation. The case of Hasna is to me troublingly reminiscent of the case of Jean Charles De Menezes, in that it became obvious in the days after his death that everything the police and establishment had leaked to the media about him (leaping over barriers, running through the tunnels, heavy jacket, wires protruding) was a complete, utter and quite deliberate lie.
The media could help if they were in any way rational and dispassionate, or ever questioned an official narrative. It is an urgent and irrepressible question as to why the BBC journalist did not ask the French policeman “and why did you not say this 48 hours ago when you were content to allow the story to run that she was a suicide bomber?”
Similar media manipulation is at use here by the Guardian in telling us the police stormed a “terrorist apartment”. What is a “terrorist apartment”. Are the walls made of semtex? The intent of course is to assure us everybody inside was a terrorist. It is not just the Guardian. The phrase is all over the media. Again, google it.
I am worried in case Hollande’s Rambo impersonation is steamrollering justice. It may well be that Hasna was a dreadful and bloodthirsty terrorist. I do not know. It may well be she was killed by the terrorists not the police. All we know at the moment is she was in an apartment with people who allegedly were terrorists, and died in the “battle”. But I do not trust the changing stories of the authorities.
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