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On March 23, 2018, two French citizens, Erwan Guillard a.k.a Abu Qatada and Tewffik Bouallag, received 12- and 14-year jail sentences respectively for their activities as part of the Islamic State (ISIS) organization between the summer of 2013 and June 2014, when they both returned to France. In April 2014, the two men appeared in an unofficial ISIS video filmed by the late Moroccan ISIS fighter, Abdallah Guitone a.k.a Abu Tamima, who was a prominent operative in the early stages of the development of French-language ISIS media production. According to French news reports, it is this video that drew the attention of French investigators to the men. The MEMRI JTTM team reported on the video when it was published in April 2014, and highlighted the fact that in the video Erwan Guillard a.k.a Abu Qatada reveals that he served as a French paratrooper prior to his conversion to Islam. The video clearly shows that both men were wounded in combat.
The following are screenshots from the 2014 video filmed in Raqqa, which at the time was the ISIS capital.
Erwan Guillard a.k.a Abu Qatada as he appeared in the 2014 video
Tewffik Bouallag as he appeared in the 2014 video
Prominent French ISIS operative Abou Shaheed as he appeared in the 2014 video
Prominent ISIS operative Abdallah Guitone a.k.a Abu Tamima as he appeared in the 2014 video
The following is the text of the report as it was published at the time:
French-Speaking ISIS Fighters In Al-Raqqa, Including Former French Paratrooper Who Converted To Islam, Urge Fellow Muslims To Join The Jihad
April 22, 2014
In a 16-minute video posted April 11, 2014 to YouTube and Facebook, Abu Abdullah Guitone, a French-Tunisian member of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), tours the city of Al-Raqqa and interviews some of his fellow French-speaking mujahideen who are fighting there. The interviewees, speaking in French, relate their stories and their experiences fighting in this ISIS-controlled city, and call upon their fellow Muslims in France and other French-speaking countries to come to Syria and join ISIS too. In promoting their message they emphasize several key points, including the religious obligation of fighting jihad against the tyrant Bashar Al-Assad; the honor of fighting for Allah in the holy land of Syria, as opposed to the humiliation of living in the West among the infidels; the sense of brotherhood that exists amongst the jihad fighters and the great rewards that will be granted to the fighter in the afterlife for having fought jihad in the path of Allah.
One of the fighters Guitone interviews is a convert to Islam named Abu Qatada. Though converts are a minority among the ISIS foreign fighters (most of whom come from Muslim families), they play an important role in promoting the jihadi message by demonstrating that it appeals even to non-Muslims. Abu Qatada claims to have been a paratrooper in the French army before converting to Islam and coming to Syria. He says he became familiar with Islam through friends from his neighborhood, and converted two weeks after his release from the army. He states: "I am French, of French origin, with French parents, and I used to be a paratrooper in the French army... I have disavowed that army of tyrants, and now I am here in an army that is [the complete] opposite [of the French army]... Now I do not have comrades-in-arms, I have brothers. It is not the French flag that unites us, but rather Allah..."
Addressing Muslims in the West, Abu Qatada adds: "My brothers, you live in a country where they insult the Prophet, where they are trying to create a new religion they call democracy. You are staying in countries that kill Muslims in Central Africa, Afghanistan and Mali... I swear by Allah, brothers, that immigrating to a land of Islam is obligatory."
This point – that jihad in Syria is a duty – is stressed by many of the interviewees. A fighter called Abu Ayyoub, who is also a convert, states: "We are here to meet an obligation [...] It is an obligation for us and for you. [...] We are waiting for you." Another fighter, Abou Shaheed,[i] states in the introduction to the video: "Here the jihad is fard 'ayn [individual religious obligation." An unidentified fighter who was wounded and who shows his wounds to the camera says: "We ask Allah to facilitate the immigration of our brothers… They need to take the first step!"
The release of this video comes in the wake of several recent media releases[ii] by French-speaking ISIS members, who now form a significant portion of the organization's foreign fighters. In fact, Abou Shaheed related in another interview that, during ISIS operations where most of the fighters are French, they communicate in French on the radio for purposes of operational security.[iii]
At the end of the video, a fighter called Abu Sa'd says: "We advise [you]… to disavow the infidels in France and democracy all over the world... Join the jihad in the path of Allah; wake up before unbelief enters your homes…" An unidentified fighter adds: "I urge you, dear brothers, to immigrate to the land of Islam. Living in a land of unbelief is degrading."
Screenshots from the video: Abu Qatada as a French paratrooper (left) and as member of ISIS.
Screenshot from the video shows a foreign fighter's belongings: French passport, Syrian money, grenades, snacks and a walkie-talkie.
[i] About Abou Shaheed, see MEMRI JTTM report: An In-Depth Look At One Of The Facebook/Twitter Networks Of French-Speaking Jihadis Fighting In Syria: Glorifying Jihad In Syria, Condemning "Heretical" France February 17, 2014.
[ii] See MEMRI JTTM report: ISIS French Spokesman: "Woe To The Infidels And The Apostates Facing The Islamic State (ISIS)" April 9, 2014.
[iii] Abou Shaheed interview with Parismatch.com, March 23, 2014.
 Europe1.fr, March 23, 2018.
 See MEMRI JTTM report In New Video, French Jihadi Urges Western Muslims To Join The Islamic State, July 21, 2014.
 Sudouest.fr, March 17, 2018.
 See MEMRI JTTM report French-Speaking ISIS Fighters In Al-Raqqa, Including Former French Paratrooper Who Converted To Islam, Urge Fellow Muslims To Join The Jihad, April 22, 2014
 See MEMRI JTTM report Prominent French Jihadi Abou Shaheed Killed In Syria Infighting, June 02, 2014.