Two week ago, the Tunisian Seif Allah H. was arrested in Cologne, Germany for preparing Ricin using an Islamic State manual to conduct a terrorist attack. This case has gotten more attention recently in the Anglo press.
This case reminded me of one of the Islamic State border documents that involved a Tunisian that had been living in Germany before joining IS in Syria. He also happened to have chemical experience. This is likely a coincidence and not the same person since these two individuals have different real names (though with the one in the IS border documents I will not be disclosing his real name).
While with IS, the individual went by the name Abu al-Qasim al-Qayrawani. He was born on January 29, 1985, meaning when he joined IS on September 26, 2013 he was twenty-eight years old. He originally grew up in Tebourba, Tunisia, about twenty miles northwest of Tunis. Prior to joining IS, al-Qayrawani had traveled to Algeria, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, and Turkey as well as had been living in Germany for the prior seven years – so since around 2006. Before traveling to join IS, he was living in Munich and a master’s student in chemical engineering. When he went to Syria, al-Qayrawani got his tazkiya (assurance) to join IS from an Abu al-Jarah al-Tunisi who at the time was based in al-Bab, about 27 miles northeast of Aleppo, and went through the A’zaz IS border crossing, meaning al-Qayrawani likely was facilitated through Turkey into Syria via the border town of Kilis, Turkey.
What is most noteworthy is this individuals’ background in chemical engineering and how that may have helped IS. We know that IS has had an interest in chemical warfare and has been involved in a number of attacks within Iraq and Syria involving chemical weapons. The current status of someone like al-Qayrawani is unknown. And while German authorities do not know yet or at least have not disclosed any specific details on if Seif Allah had any connections directly to IS at this point beyond using an IS ricin preparation manual, which conceivably could have come from the Internet, this does illustrate between Seif Allah’s case, the information on al-Qayrawani, and what we know about IS’s chemical capabilities the nexus between recruitment, action in theater, and potential inspiration or guidance for external operations abroad.