PARIS -- The details revealed so far in the Boston Marathon bombing case are strikingly similar to those of a high-profile case in France last year. Both exemplify the modus operandi of today's young jihadist.
Naturally, it all starts with an immersion in Islamic extremism. The North Caucasus region where the Boston suspects spent their childhood -- a region where there has been a great deal of separatist violence since the collapse of the Soviet Union -- ended up being dominated by a radical Saudi Islamic warlord, Ibn al-Khattab, who waged a relentless terrorist war against Russia until the FSB (a successor agency to the KGB) was able to liquidate him in 2002 when a courier delivered him a letter coated with a deadly substance. And before these Islamists were fighting Russians, they were fighting each other, tribe against tribe.
Not only did the Tsarnaev brothers hail from this jihadist nest, but the FBI now admits it had been warned by the Russian government in 2011 about the danger that the older one, Tamerlan, presented. According to the FBI's recent statement, the Russians were worried that he was about to leave America to join up with terrorist groups in the Caucasus. He spent six months in Russia in 2012 and apparently didn't strike U.S. authorities as a problem until now.
The case is similar to one in France in March 2012 involving 23-year old Mohammed Merah, who terrorized the Toulouse region over a number of days, killing seven people -- French military personnel, Jewish schoolchildren and a rabbi -- in a series of attacks that paralyzed the area until he was taken out in a hail of bullets following a lengthy police standoff at his residence.
The French public wondered how Merah had the opportunity to go full-blown jihad even though he was known to French authorities and intelligence services and was known to have made trips to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, known for its terrorist training camps. According to reports, Afghan forces had detained Merah and tried to turn him over to U.S. officials, but they instructed the Afghans to turn him over to the French military, which then returned him to France.
Some of the intelligence documents related to the Merah case have been declassified and provide valuable insight into the mentality of these young jihadists. The similarities to the Boston case -- and the related intelligence failures -- are stunning. Here are a few:
--Merah's brother, Abdelkader, is still being held in prison more than a year after the deadly attacks on charges of complicity. He refuses to identify a person of interest in the case. Another brotherly duo.