A father lost in incomprehension over 'normal' son's involvment in Paris attacks
Tuesday's session of the Paris attacks trial was dominated by a police report on the Clain family of jihadist extremists. The court also heard from the father of a dead terrorist, another man mystified by the transformation of his fine, normal son into a murderous stranger.
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Driss Laachraoui is 66. He seems older.
He is the father of Najim, who killed himself in the 2016 Brussels airport explosion, and who is believed to have supervised the making of the suicide vests used in the Paris attacks.
Driss Laachraoui doesn't have any answers.
His son was "a good kid, brilliant at school. Then he lost interest in his studies and we fell out because his resujts were no good."
The father associates that change with the beginnings of his son's intense interest in Islam and attendance at a Molenbeek mosque.
"I thought he was learning Arabic.
"I didn't know his friends because I wouldn't let them into the house.
"He was indoctrinated. I tried to talk to him but he was so radical, dialogue became impossible.
"I cut the wi-fi service in the house to keep him off the internet. I took his passport. But he still went to Syria. He told me it was to fight against Bashar Al Assad. I didn't want him involved in a fight between nations.
'Like talking to a wall'
"We spoke on the phone for two or three months after he left. He told me he was with Islamic State. He said he had been shot in the leg in a battle. He tried to convince me to come to Syria!"
After a call in late August 2015, the family never heard from Najim Laachraoui again. Until they read about him in the papers.
The father stood before the special criminal court, a decent, heartbroken man, and said simply, "Mr Court President, I don't understand how the person he was at 17 or 18 could become the person who did what he did.
"It changed everything. What do you want me to say? It was a catastrophe."
Converts from Catholicism
The police evidence concerning the Clain family was comprehensive but offered no greater clarity.
The brothers Fabien and Jean-Michel Clain were the driving force behind Islamic State's propaganda effort. The family converted, en bloc and in less than two weeks, from Catholicism to fundamentalist Islam.
The brothers then left a trail of conversions in their wake, from Toulouse and various French jails, to Syria where they are believed to have died in a coalition airstrike in 2019.
The trial continues. Wednesday's session will open later than usual, at 14.00, to allow legal personnel time to participate in the protest by magistrates in support of their claim for better working conditions.
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