A French Terrorist Killed Two People, Then Bragged About it on Facebook Live

Larossi Abballa live-streamed the aftermath of his home invasion and murder of two police officials in France.

French policemen stand guard on June 14, 2016 near the house in Magnanville where a man claiming allegiance to the Islamic State group killed a French policeman and his partner on the night of June 13. 
The man who knifed to death two police officials had a "hit list" of VIPs, police and rappers, the Paris prosecutor said on June 14. The killer, 25-year-old Larossi Abballa, had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group three weeks ago, Francois Molins told a news conference.  / AFP / MATTHIEU ALEXANDRE        (Photo credit should read )
French policemen stand guard on June 14, 2016 near the house in Magnanville where a man claiming allegiance to the Islamic State group killed a French policeman and his partner on the night of June 13. The man who knifed to death two police officials had a "hit list" of VIPs, police and rappers, the Paris prosecutor said on June 14. The killer, 25-year-old Larossi Abballa, had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group three weeks ago, Francois Molins told a news conference. / AFP / MATTHIEU ALEXANDRE (Photo credit should read )
French policemen stand guard on June 14, 2016 near the house in Magnanville where a man claiming allegiance to the Islamic State group killed a French policeman and his partner on the night of June 13. The man who knifed to death two police officials had a "hit list" of VIPs, police and rappers, the Paris prosecutor said on June 14. The killer, 25-year-old Larossi Abballa, had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group three weeks ago, Francois Molins told a news conference. / AFP / MATTHIEU ALEXANDRE (Photo credit should read )

After killing a French police commander and his partner in their suburban home outside Paris, 25-year-old Larossi Abballa used a decidedly modern way of publicizing the murders: He logged into Facebook and used its new live streaming service to broadcast his thoughts on the terror attack he had committed just moments earlier.

Abballa blasted his macabre confessional -- the first of its kind -- to some 100 contacts shortly after murdering the two police officials on Monday night. He stabbed police commander Jean-Baptiste Salvaing outside of his house in Maganville, a suburb 35 miles west of Paris, before taking the policeman’s girlfriend and three-year-old son hostage inside. Elite commandos then stormed the house after negotiations failed, killed Abballa, and safely rescued the child.

In the 12-minute video, Abballa declared his allegiance to the Islamic State, promised more attacks to come at Euro 2016, a soccer tournament held in cities throughout France, and pondered what to do with the toddler.

After killing a French police commander and his partner in their suburban home outside Paris, 25-year-old Larossi Abballa used a decidedly modern way of publicizing the murders: He logged into Facebook and used its new live streaming service to broadcast his thoughts on the terror attack he had committed just moments earlier.

Abballa blasted his macabre confessional — the first of its kind — to some 100 contacts shortly after murdering the two police officials on Monday night. He stabbed police commander Jean-Baptiste Salvaing outside of his house in Maganville, a suburb 35 miles west of Paris, before taking the policeman’s girlfriend and three-year-old son hostage inside. Elite commandos then stormed the house after negotiations failed, killed Abballa, and safely rescued the child.

In the 12-minute video, Abballa declared his allegiance to the Islamic State, promised more attacks to come at Euro 2016, a soccer tournament held in cities throughout France, and pondered what to do with the toddler.

“I just killed a police officer and his wife,” he says, adding: “The police are currently surrounding me.”

He then predicts that Euro 2016 “will be like a cemetery,” according to French journalist David Thomson, who saw the video before Facebook suspended Abballa’s account.

Facebook forbids posts by “terrorist groups” as well as posts in which users “celebrate” violence they’ve committed themselves. And while it doesn’t automatically screen videos uploaded to the site, Facebook says it takes down “terrorist content” as soon as it’s reported.

Abballa appears to have spared the child’s life out of moral confusion. “I don’t know yet what I’ll do with it,” he told viewers.

During his negotiations with police, Abballa told them he had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State three weeks ago and was heeding the Islamic State’s call for carrying out attacks during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

“Hurt the Crusaders day and night without sleeping, and terrorize them so that the neighbor fears his neighbor,” said Abu Mohammed al Adnani, the Islamic State official who issued that call in an audio recording released May 21.

In addition to the video, Abballa posted photos of the victims to his Facebook and presented a target list that included other police officers, prison guards, journalists, and rappers, according to Thomson.

In 2013, a French court sentenced Abballa to three years in prison for recruiting jihadists for a Pakistani network, according to the Associated Press. French police had also investigated him for possible connections to a jihadist network in Syria, but he “did not present a sufficient and concrete enough threat,” according to security sources cited by the French newspaper Le Parisien.

Past terrorist attacks in France have normally taken place in public places like concert halls and restaurants and involved victims who were complete strangers to their killers. Abballa’s attack marks a striking and terrifying departure because he knew the identity of the officer, tracked him home, and then murdered the officer and his partner. Going after the families of police officers is common in places like Mexico, but wasn’t something militants loyal to the Islamic State had succeeded in doing — or even attempting — in the heart of Europe. It could spark new fears in France that nowhere — even the home — is safe from terrorism.

His attack and another one the day before on a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, as well as a beheading in the Philippines, have renewed questions about the ability of Western security forces to foil terrorist plots that may be only tenuously linked to the Islamic State. On Monday, the Philippines-based Abu Sayyaf militant group, which is loosely affiliated to the Islamic State, decapitated Canadian hostage Robert Hall and then circulated grisly video footage of it on social media.

In Orlando, U.S. citizen Omar Mateen gunned down 49 people and injured 53. Like Abballa, he felt the need to put his loyalty to the Islamic State on public record, calling emergency hotline 911 to do so shortly before the massacre. No evidence has emerged yet to indicate the Islamic State gave specific directions to either Mateen or Abballa. 

But Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, cautioned against categorizing either of them as “lone wolves.”

“It’s healthy to start with no hypothesis, to begin by understanding they might be connected to the central network, or they might be lone wolves,” Gartenstein-Ross told Foreign Policy in a phone conversation.

“One thing we can clearly say is that there has been an evolution tactically. Using Facebook live, as grotesque as that is, is absolutely consistent with their way of using new media to intimidate and broadcast their deeds and publicize them,” he added.

Photo credit: MATTHIEU ALEXANDRE/AFP/Getty Images

Henry Johnson is a fellow at Foreign Policy. He graduated from Claremont McKenna College with a degree in history and previously wrote for LobeLog. Twitter: @HenryJohnsoon

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