Angela Merkel just can’t catch a break these days.
The “Iron Chancellor” was already under intense pressure to effectively repeal Germany’s open-door policy on Mid-East refugees after attacks in Paris left 130 dead and a bomb scare in Hannover forced the evacuation of two soccer stadiums. Then, on New Year’s Eve, hundreds of men purportedly of “Arab origin” sexually assaulted women gathered in Cologne’s city center in what has been variously described as a premeditated mass attack.
Over the weekend, some 1,700 people showed up for a PEGIDA rally where demonstrators held up signs carrying slogans such as “Rapeugees not welcome.” Some speakers at the event called for Merkel’s ouster.
Now, we learn that the man who last Thursday ran into a police station in northern Paris shouting “Allahu Akbar” and waving a meat cleaver spent time in a house for asylum seekers in Germany. That residence was raided on Saturday when German police, acting on a tip from French intelligence, stormed the building and found SIM cards, “documents” in Arabic, kitchen knives, and a banner reading “Islamic State forever” hanging in the kitchen.
(investigators search the refugee center in Recklinghausen)
At this point, no one appears to know exactly who the man is because according to various accounts, he's used "at least seven" aliases over the years. “What we know today is that the identity the investigation had focused on at first was not the right one, that he is probably of Tunisian origin, that his name could be Tarek Belgacem and that he could have stayed in several European Union countries,” French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve said on Sunday.
Yes, his name "could be" Tarek Belgacem but he posed as an asylum seeker using the name Walid Salihi. "The man had already been classed by German police as potentially dangerous after he posed at the refugee centre with an IS flag, but he disappeared in December," AFP notes, citing Spiegel. "He travelled across Europe and made (asylum) requests everywhere," German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told ZDF television. "He had a criminal past," de Maiziere added.
That criminal past allegedly includes a 2014 arrest for sexual assault in Cologne (no less) where Salihi (or Belgacem or whoever he actually is) purportedly "rubbed the behinds of females' and touched their intimate parts," The Daily Mail says, referencing a German police report. "In February 2014, the terrorist was captured by the police, because he [was] in a Cologne Disco women harassed, took the victims to the rear and in the genital area. In the same month he should beat up a homeless man attacked a passerby, who strangled a roommate," a clumsy translation of Bild's account reads. Here's more from the Daily Mail:
Officially he is registered as Walid Salihi, 18, who was seeking asylum seeker in Germany. In France he said he was 20, Moroccan and called Tarek Belgacem. He also pretended in turn to be a Georgian and a Tunisian.
Police initially identified him as Sallah Ali, born in 1995 in Casablanca, Morocco, a homeless man who was arrested for theft in the Var region of southern France in 2013.
He had been apprehended by police three times during his short time in Germany. He sat in police cells for drug possession, causing bodily harm, threats, thefts and unlawful weapons possession.
A man who shared a room with him in an asylum home told Germany's Bild newspaper: 'He became aggressive very quickly, especially when it came to matters of religious belief.
'All non-believers were 'worthless' to him and had to die.' But using his various aliases he managed to avoid being deported.
On 31 January 2011 he registered as an asylum seeker in Romania, on April 8 that year, in Austria. On October 14 the same year in Italy and on January 8 2013 in Switzerland.
On the 7 January 2014 he registered in Germany and the following month again in Romania. On March 17 last year he registered in Sweden and in August in Germany again, in Recklinghausen.
'It is entirely unclear why he was not rumbled by authorities sooner,' said the Bild newspaper. 'For every offence and for every registration he was fingerprinted.'
And here's The New York Times:
The man first surfaced in Germany in 2013 after living illegally for five years in France, and had been under investigation on suspicion of dealing drugs and weapons, and assaulting and harassing women, Mr. Jacob said.
Besides serving a monthlong jail term in Germany, the man had also been arrested in France and Luxembourg, the German police said.
But the French interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, speaking to the iTélé news channel on Sunday, said he could not confirm that the man had spent time in a center for asylum seekers in Germany, nor that he had sought asylum there.
“It is an information that I cannot confirm, because I am simply not sure that it is correct,” Mr. Cazeneuve said, adding that news media should exercise the “greatest care” in reporting on the man’s identity and past.
The French police took the man’s fingerprints in 2013 when he was arrested in connection with a theft in the south of France, but he appeared to have lied about his identity at the time, telling the police that he was a Moroccan citizen born in 1995, the Paris prosecutor has said.
Several people in Tunisia claiming to be members of the man’s family have told the Tunisian news media that he had no links to extremist groups. But Mr. Cazeneuve did not express certainty about the man’s identity.
Uwe Jacob, director of the local state criminal office which is investigating the man's background put it best, saying "we don't know who the man really is."
But it gets worse.
The man's friend - or "accomplice" as Bild calls him - was arrested in connection with the New Year's Eve Attacks. Here's Bild again (translated):
After image information was his cell phone in the first days of January - tracked in Cologne - shortly after the Sex Mob and shame before the assassination attempt. An accomplice, with whom he is said to have committed crimes, had police checks than those involved in the sex-mob. Despite an arrest warrant, they let him go.
So if all of the above is accurate, it's laughably bad for Merkel. Here's a man who openly flouted European immigration authorities for years while embarking on a petty crime spree that included "rubbing the behinds" of females in discos, robbing people, beating up a homeless man, attacking a "passerby", and "strangling" a roommate. And that was all on the way to storming a Paris police station with a meat cleaver while wearing a fake bomb vest and carrying a note declaring his allegiance to ISIS. Oh, and he may have been involved in the New Year's Eve attacks for which his friend was allegedly arrested.
Here's his "asylum marathon" (as Bild puts it):
- January 31, 2011, Romania
- April 8th 2011, Austria
- March 14, 2011, Italy
- January 8, 2013, Switzerland
- 7 January 2014, Germany
- 21 February 2014: application for readmission Germany to Romania
- March 17, 2015 , Sweden
- In August, then the application in Recklinghausen.
When it comes to explaining why Germany should halt its open-door migrant policy, you couldn't craft a better story if you tried. In fact, it's so outlandish that one wonders if it's at least partially contrived.
In any event, you can expect this to prompt still more calls for Merkel's head (figuratively speaking we hope) and create still more social upheaval in a country that is quite literally coming apart at the seams.