The covert operations behind Islamic State's terror campaign in Europe

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This third Mediapart investigation into the workings of the Islamic State group’s secretive “Amniyat” branch – in effect its intelligence and foreign operations unit –details the often quite sophisticated, and sometimes very amateurish, methods it employs. Here Matthieu Suc charts the development of the IS terrorist operations against European countries, its preparations for the massacres of civilians in Paris and Brussels, and the reconnaissance it carried out for attacks in the Netherlands and in Britain.

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It was about 4pm on July 15th 2015, a warm and sunny day, when Mohamed Abrini, a Belgian from the Molenbeek district of Brussels where he had recently sold his snack bar, arrived as agreed in front of a pizzeria in the Small Heath area of the British city of Birmingham. It was close to a local park, where members of the local Muslim community often prey when the weather allows.