Djerba

The bombing at the Ghriba synagogue in Djerba, 2002

Elias Davidsson

Version 1.0

Sixteen people were killed during an attack at the Ghriba synagogue in Djerba (Tunisia) on April 11, 2002. Later reports said that the number of dead were nineteen, thereof 12 Germans tourists.1 A still later report put the number of fatalities at 21, including 14 Germans, five Tunisians and two French nationals, thereof one Muslim. More than 30 were wounded.2  The attacker(s) were said to have detonated a natural gas truck fitted with explosives, which drove past security barriers at the ancient synagogue.

Twelve days later, German Interior Minister Otto Schily stated, that there were „several theories about how the attack was carried out, who is behind it, and who else might have been involved.”3

Tunisian investigators said at the time that they identified the perpetrator from dental records. He was said a 24-year-old Tunisian, Nizar Ben Muhammad Nasr Nawar, who died in the blast. Yet according to a report by Associated Press published on December 10, 2003, his body “has never been found.”4 According to The Independent of November 6, 2002, Tunisian authorities “believe” Naouar [fr. for Nawar] had died in the explosion.5 According to Le Parisien of May 6, 2002, the German authorities had not yet received at that date, despite repeated demands, his autopsy report.6

Despite these contradictory reports, officials in Germany and France attributed the attack to Nizar Nawar and said that he spent months planning the attack.7 One of his uncles, Muhammad Chedli Nawar, interviewed near the family home, said that Nizar was not religious: He drank, visited bars in tourist hotels and wore shorts. The uncle admitted though he had not seen Nizar for two years.

According to unidentified Tunisian officials, another uncle of Nizar, Belgacem Nawar,  bought an old refrigerated truck a few weeks before the attack from a butcher in Djerba. His nephew is said to have kept the truck hidden in a small garage where he filled the tank by hand with propane.8 A French intelligence official cited by the New York Times said that along Nizar and his uncle Belgacem there was an additional accomplice „in the cab of the truck who fled moments before the explosion.“9

In a “speech” broadcast by the al-Jazeera TV network in Qatar, a certain Sulaiman abu Ghaith, described as Osama bin Laden’s official spokesman, claimed that Al Qaeda carried out the attack on Djerba. His explanation: “A youth could not see his brothers in Palestine butchered and murdered (while) he saw Jews cavorting in Djerba. So this spirit of jihad surged and he carried out this successful operation, may God accept it.”10 It is difficult to know whether abu Ghaith, whoever he was, was stupid or whether he was singing for his breakfast. There is no evidence that Jews “cavorted” in Djerba nor that Jews died in the attack. Virtually all victims were European tourists, most of them German.

The attack was conducted on Thursday, not on the Sabbath, when Jews would be expected to pray in the synagogue. It should be mentioned that hundreds of Israeli tourists actually visit Djerba yearly, a site of Jewish pilgrimage. But the attack was not timed to target Israelis.  The attackers, whoever they were, clearly did not plan to kill Jews or Israelis. For that reason alone, the above claim by Al Qaeda must be rejected as a hoax. The question thus arises what prompted the deadly operation and who masterminded it.

Surveillance prior to the attack

Canadian intelligence officials, who said they spent several weeks tracking Nizar’s movements (so!), declined to comment on the case.11

Christian Ganczarski, 36, a Polish immigrant who converted to Islam in the mid-1990’s12, lived until 2002 in the western German city of Mülheim and was unemployed.  He was already under investigation when the German police “overheard” a telephone call between him and Nizar Nawar, a few hours before Nawar allegedly detonated the bomb on the island of Djerba. According to what transpired later in Ganczarski’s trial in Paris, he was interviewed by German police fifteen times in 2002.13 During his interrogations in Germany, Ganczarski admitted to have traveled five times to al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, including once approximately a month after the September 11 attacks. German investigators reportedly found in Ganczarski’s home the telephone number of Ramzi Binalshibh, the alleged financier of 9/11 and a friend of Mohamed Atta.14 Kay Nehm, Germany’s chief federal prosecutor, said in an interview: „This suspect stands out from all others because he has had contact with the inner circles of Al Qaeda. We do not find such a witness every day. He is someone who knows a lot.“15 In spite of his status, Ganczarski was not detained.

According to the German magazine Der Spiegel, Interior Minister Otto Schily wanted to put Ganczarski behind bars, but could not after Kay Nehm argued that there was insufficient evidence for detention. Germany’s Federal Court of Justice issued an unusual press release in December 2002, in which it explained that although a criminal investigation into Ganczarski’s alleged membership in a terrorist organisation had taken place, the evidence had not been sufficient for issuing an arrest warrant.  Ganczarski and his family left Germany in November 2002.16

According to Der Spiegel,  Ganczarski was recruited by Al Qaeda in the city of Duisburg. The suspected recruiter, Elfatih Musa Ali, also under investigation in connection with the Tunisian blast, left Germany for Sudan in May 2002l.17

As German justice has traditionally displayed particular zeal in prosecuting political suspects and violating constitutional principles, the apparent respect by the German judicial authorities of Ganczarski’s constitutional rights appears disingenious.

Investigations and arrests

According to the news report, Ganczarski left Germany in November 2002 and settled with his family in Saudi Arabia.  At first the family lived without any problems, but Saudi officials ”deported him to Germany” after a series of terrorist attacks on Riyadh. French secret service arrested him “during a layover in Paris on his way back to Germany”.18 According to Der Spiegel, in a scheme by the CIA, the French and the Saudis, Ganczarski was placed on an Air France flight to Frankfurt, via Paris. But when he arrived in Paris, on the morning of June 6, 2003, six officials with the French domestic intelligence agency fished him out of the crowd.19 „A very nice operation,“ says Ganczarski’s lawyer, Sébastien Bono, „but one could also call it kidnapping.“ Ganczarski, a German citizen, was then kept in French detention for six years until his trial. „It borders on a human rights violation,“ says Bono.20 It appears that the German authorities, who claim to have been legally unable to detain Ganczarski, asked their French colleagues to do so because of his phone conversation with Nizar Nawar on the day of the Djerba attack. Jean-Louis Brugière, the investigating judge in the case, had issued the arrest warrant — without so much as a second’s delay.21

French authorities arrested three days earlier Karim Mehdi, said to be a colleague of Ganczarski. Mehdi allegedly “told authorities he was on the way to the French territory of Reunion in the Indian Ocean on a ‘reconnaissance mission’ with the aim of staging a Bali-style nightclub attack using a booby-trapped vehicle. He named Ganczarski as an organiser.”22

French police arrested later  – in November 2003 – eight people near Lyon in connection with the Djerba attack. Among those detained, Brugière said, were the parents and brother of Tunisian Nizar Nawar.23 This brother, Walid Nawar, 22, was identified as the driver of a fuel truck that blew up in April outside a synagogue on the Tunisian island of Djerba.24

Nizar’s brother Walid Nawar (fr. Naouar) bought a satellite phone, worth 1,800 €, in Paris and sent it with an acquaintance to his brother in Tunisia.25 Walid then immediately applied for a VAT refund at the airport. The satellite phone was found in Nizar Naouar’s Tunisia home and had allegedly been used hours before the attack to call people in Pakistan and Germany with suspected links to al-Qaeda.26

Two other suspects under investigation by French police were reported as Nizar Naouar’s uncle, Mohamed Sethi Naouar (sic) and a close family friend, 20-year-old Tarek Hdia.  Investigators said they are looking into a $30,000 loan taken by the uncle and say they think the family friend contributed money for the satellite phone. Hdia has said he was told that Nizar Naouar needed the phone for his job as a tourist guide in Tunisia.27

A Swiss Islamic convert aged 43 years, was reported in June 2003 being investigated by France and Spain on suspicion of “having played a role in financing the [Djerba] attack.”  The person was “understood to be” secretary to the Salah Islamic centre at Biel in Switzerland.  In March 2003, a Spaniard called Enrique Cerda Ibanez was held in Spain on suspicion of controlling bank accounts which financed the Djerba attack.  According to the Swiss newspaper Le Temps, Christian Ganczarski had been in regular contact with the Islamic centre in Biel.  He is said to have called the centre several times, including hours before the Djerba attack.28

In December 2003, a cousin of the alleged suicide bomber from Djerba was detained in a Paris suburb.

According to French prosecutors, it was Khaled Sheikh Mohamed (KSM) who ordered the attack on Djerba.29 KSM is said to have been captured in Pakistan in 2003 and transferred to U.S. custody, where he remains until today without having been brought to trial. Nizar Nawar is said to have used his satellite phone to call KSM.

Note that most above reports originate from law-enforcement or intelligence sources and cannot be verified.

Sentences

Spain’s National Court on Wednesday handed down prison sentences of five years each to a Spaniard and a Pakistani for collaborating in the bombing of Djerba in 2002. The two, Spaniard Enrique Cerda Ibanez and Pakistani Ahmed Ruksar, were found guilty of sending money to Issa Ismail Muhamad, identified as „Isaac of Karachi,“ who is believed to have financed the Djerba attack.30 Ruksar, who ran a shop for making international calls in the northern Spanish town of Logrono, was also found guilty of supplying money to „Isaac of Karachi,“ the court document said.31

The trial of three suspected terrorists behind the deadly 2002 attacks on a synagogue on the Tunisian island of Djerba began in Paris seven years later, on January 5, 2009.32

According to Jean-Louis Bruguière, a former anti-terrorist “juge d’instruction”, Ganczarski gave Nizar Nawar a “green light” to act in their phone conversation on the morning of the attack, and was thus complicit to the crime. According to Ganzarski’s lawyers, who had the phone call translated, their conversation did not amount to much more than a courtesy call.33 As reported, Ganczarski did not expect Nawar’s call and just wished Nawar all the best.34

Ganczarski, who was accused to have given Nizar a “blessing for the attack”,35 vigorously denied all the charges against him. In a letter sent to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, he proclaimed his innocence, adding “I have a peaceful conscience” and had nothing to do with the “terrible attack or such planning […]  In addition to the Germans, Spanish, Tunisian, Saudi Arabian and Swiss investigators have confirmed that I am neither a terrorist nor a high-ranking member of Qaida and neither was I involved in the attack in Djerba,“ Ganczarski wrote from his prison cell.36 He admitted, however, having dwelt in Afghanistan several times and meeting there Osama bin Laden.

In February 2009, a Paris court also found guilty Christian Ganczarski, a German convert to Islam and al-Qaeda member, and sentenced him to 18 years in prison.37

An uncle of the alleged suicide bomber, Belgacem Nawar, was convicted to 20 years in prison by a Tunisian court in June 2006 for helping his nephew to fill the deadly gas tank before the attack.38 According to Al Jazeera, he said he had only helped his nephew buy the lorry and had no idea what he planned to use it for. His defense lawyers walked out of the court before the verdict to protest what they alleged was an unfair legal process and said they would appeal his sentence.39 According to Amnesty International, Belgacem was not denied  access to a lawyer for several months.40 The German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that German and French judicial authorities had cooperated with their respective Tunisian authorities but did not elaborate.41 According to Le Parisien, however, German authorities were not allowed to interrogate Belkacem Nawar, whom Tunisian authorities detained in a secret location.42. According to Associated Press, one of his lawyers, Samir ben Amor, claimed that his client had been tortured and asked that he be examined by physicians and treated. His lawyer also said that his client had observed a 43-day hunger strike to protest about his long incarceration and demand an “equitable trial”.43 In March 2007, Judge Fethi Ben Youssef of the Tunisian Supreme Court upheld the sentence against Belgacem Nawar.44

On October 26, 2006 Karim Mehdi was sentenced in Paris to 9 years in prison for his role in a terror plot to plant a bomb in the Reunion, in 2003, and ordered to be deported back to Morocco at the end of his sentence.

Cast

Nizar Ben Muhammad Nasr Nawar

Belgacem Nawar (uncle of Nizar) (sentenced  by a court in the Tunisian capital, Tunis in June 2006.)

Muhammad Fehti Naouar (uncle of Nizar) [elsewhere Mohamed Seth Naouar]]

Walid Nawar (brother of Nizar)

Enrique Cerda Ibanez (sending money to Issa)  [sentenced by Spanish court]

Ahmed Rukhsar (sending money to Issa) [sentenced by Spanish court]

Issa Ismail Muhamad (alleged financier of the attack)

Christian Ganczarski (German convert to Islam)

Tarek Hdia (friend) [released in July 2004]

Sulaiman abu Ghaith (al Qaeda operative)

Elfatih Musa Ali (recruiter)

Karim Mehdi

Khaled Sheikh Mohamed (alleged plotter)

Questions

1. Why trial in Spain?

2. What has Canada to do with this?

3. Why did it take six years to try Ganczarski?

4. What role did G. play?

5. Why was it so difficult to detain G. in Germany?

6. Why an al Qaeda dubious claim?

7. Why was the bombing declared initially an accident?

8. What motives could Nizar have?

9. Why was financing needed?

10. Why no autopsy?

11. What kind of investigation took place?

12. Why no Jewish fatalities?

13. Why no Jewish/Israel targets?

Conclusions

Apart from numerous unanswered questions, we note the following:

1. Little is actually known about the forensics of the Djerba attack.  There is no evidence of a genuine, let alone public, investigation of the attack.  According to Le Parisien, the Tunisian authorities surround their investigation “with absolute secrecy.“45

2. It has not been definitely determined that the attack was a suicide operation and that Nizar Nawar died in the attack.

3. It has not been determined what motive prompted the attack.

4. Due to the fuzzy investigation of the actual attack, it is not evident why several individuals were sentenced to long prison sentences for an indirect connection to the attack.

5. One of the immediate consequences of the attacks was the enactment of sharper anti-terrorist legislation in Germany.  Was the attack mounted in order to prompt such legislation?

From a cui bono perspective, no motive by the alleged bomber could be adduced for attacking a group of European tourists in a synagogue. The Tunisian state, Israel and Western powers all possessed motives:

• As Islamist groups were at the time challenging the Tunisian dictatorship, the Tunisian government possessed a vested interest in discrediting these groups by attributing to their sympathizers atrocities.

• The State of Israel, based on Zionist ideology and practice, benefits from posing as an international victim of antisemitism. The attack on the Djerba synagogue was used to “prove” the existence of deadly anti-Jewish sentiments among Muslims.  The attack that “by mistake” did not hurt Jews but mostly German tourists, would also help strengthen Germany’s support for Israel.

• Western powers, led by the United States, are the promoters of the “global war on terror”. They have demonstrated a particular zeal in pressurizing governments to strengthen their counter-terrorism activities, for which Western intelligence agencies gladly provide assistance.  They possess, therefore, a particular interest in incidents that justify this imperial strategy.

We could not find evidence that points to any of the three likely beneficiaries of the Djerba bombing.   The information presented herein does, however, suggest that the bombing was a false-flag operation. False-flag terrorism can be presumed when (a) the alleged perpetrators cannot be brought to trial; (b) no bona fide organisation claims the attacks; (c)  the alleged perpetrators did not make any specific demands; (d) no known organisation celebrated the alleged perpetrators as martyrs.  The Djerba bombing fulfills these conditions.

NOTES

1.  Chris Hedges, Tunisian Killed in Synagogue Blast Was Unlikely Convert to Militancy, The New York Times, June 9, 2002, =179

2.  James Doran, “Al-Qaeda claims responsibility for Djerba attack: Bin Laden’s rep warns America”, Calgary Herald (Alberta), June 24, 2002, =180

3.  “German minister: No evidence of Al-Qa’idah links with Djerba attack”, BBC, April 23, 2002, =178

4.  Cousin of main suspect in 2002 Tunisian synagogue attack detained, Associated Press, December 10, 2003, =189

5.  Thierry Boinet, “Eight arrested over Tunisian bombing”, The Independent, November 6, 2002, X862

6.  “Djerba: le scénario se précise”, Le Parisien,  May 6, 2002, at http://www.leparisien.fr/faits-divers/djerba-le-scenario-se-precise-06-05-2002-2003042320.php

7.  Chris Hedges, supra n.

8.  Ibid.

9.  Ibid.

10.  James Doran, supra  n.

11.  Ibid.

12.  According to Emerson Vermaat, “Homegrown terrorism in Germany: The case of Christian Ganczarski”,  Militant Islam Monitor, October 8, 2007, he converted to Islam as a teenager in 1986.

13.  “Christian Ganczarski, „Allemand d’Al Qaïda“, condamné”, Confidentielles, 6 février 2009, at http://www.confidentielles.com/ttopic-68836-christian-ganczarski—quot-allemand-d-al-qaida-quot—conda.htm

14.  Ridha Kefi, “Christian Ganczarski : l’architecte de l’attentat de Djerba”, Le Temps (Tunisie), 26 janvier 2009, at http://www.letemps.com.tn/article-1453.html

15.  Desmond Butler, “Terror Suspect’s Departure from Germany Raises Concern in Other Nations”, The New York Times, December 24, 2002, =185

16.  Pressemitteilung, Der Generalbundesanwalt beim Bundesgerichtshof, December 11, 2002, X683

17.  Ibid.

18.  Ibid.

19.  Britta Sandberg and Holger Stark, “Verdict Expected in Djerba Bombing Case”, Spiegel Online, February 5, 2009, =193  [according to Wikipedia, he was arrested in Paris in April 2003]

20.  Ibid.

21.  Britta Sandberg and Holger Stark, “German’s Terror Trial to Close”, Der Spiegel, 2 May 2009

22.  Ellen Connolly and Darren Goodsir, “Sydney terror suspect linked to al-Qaeda bombers”, Sydney Morning Herald, November 18, 2003. Other sources claim Mehdi was arrested on June 1, 2003 and Ganczarski on June 2 or 3, 2003.

23.  Lisa Bryant, France Arrests 8 in Connection with Tunisia Synagogue Attack, VOA, November 5, 2002, =181

24.  Ibid.

25.  Thierry Boinet, Tunisia synagogue probe focuses on brother of suspected bomber, Associated Press, November 7, 2002, =182

26.  Verena von Derschau, “Tunisia attack suspects appear before French anti-terror judge”, Associated Press, November 12, 2002, =183

27.  Ibid.

28.  “Swiss Islamic extremist under suspicion over Tunisia suicide blast”, AFP, June 22, 2003, =187

29.  Ibid.  Also “9/11 plotter ordered bombing of Tunisia synagogue, French prosecutors say”, Ha’aretz, May 1, 2009, X796

30.  Spanish court sentences two for collaborating in Tunisia synagogue bombing, Associated Press, May 10, 2006, =190

31.  Ibid.

32.  Daryl Lindsey, “Djerba Bombing Trial Begins in Paris”, Spiegel Online, January 5, 2009, =192

33.  “Attentat de Djerba: le sort de Ganczarski dépend de quelques mots au téléphone”, Jeune Afrique, 21 janvier 2009, at http://www.jeuneafrique.com/Article/DEPAFP20090121T162817Z/

34.  Emerson Vermaat, “Homegrown terrorism in Germany: The case of Christian Ganczarski”, Militant Islam Monitor, 8 October 2007, at http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/3204

35.  “9/11 plotter ordered bombing…”, supra n.

36.  Ibid.

37.  “Legal cases continue decade after Djerba bombing”, Deutsche Welle, April 11, 2012, =194

38.  Daryl Lindsey, supra n.

39.  “Man jailed over Tunisia bombings”, Al Jazeera,  June 8, 2006, at  http://www.aljazeera.com/archive/2006/06/2008410141758240277.html

40.  “Tunisia: The cycle of injustice”, Amnesty International, MDE 30/001/2003, June 10, 2003, at http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/publisher,AMNESTY,,TUN,3f1309e14,0.html

41.  “20 Jahre Haft für Komplizen des Attentäters”, Süddeutsche Zeitung,  December 7, 2008, at http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/djerba-anschlag-jahre-haft-fuer-komplizen-des-attentaeters-1.842898

42.  “Djerba: le scénario se précise”, supra n.

43.  “Terrorisme: nouveau report du procès du complice présumé de l’attentat de Djerba”, Associated Press, May 7, 2006, at http://intimeconviction.over-blog.com/article-2650506.html

44.  “Sentence against bomber’s uncle holds”, iol news, March 4, 2007, at http://www.iol.co.za/news/africa/sentence-against-bomber-s-uncle-holds-1.317525#.UMYEMkRpfJw

45.  “Djerba: le scénario se précise”, supra n.