Recruiting terrorists in Budapest among the refugees: The Hungarian version

Those of you who subscribe to Google Alerts must have noticed that practically all English, German, and French articles on Hungary in the last few days dealt with a trip that Salah Abdeslam, the suspected organizer of the Paris terrorist attacks, made to Budapest. There he picked up two men who later had a role to play in the Paris bloodbath. The revelation of the Hungarian connection made headlines because it “put the spotlight on the question of whether jihadist militants have concealed themselves in a huge flow of asylum seekers passing through Eastern Europe.”

What do we know about this trip with a fair amount of certainty? The Belgian federal prosecutor announced on Friday that Salah Abdeslam had made two trips to the Hungarian capital in a rented Mercedes Benz, but only one trip is mentioned in the articles dealing with this particular part of the investigation. According to the reconstructed story, Abdeslam traveled to Budapest sometime before September 9, where he picked up two men whom he supplied with fake Belgian IDs in the names of Samir Bouzid and Soufiane Kayal. We know that at on September 9, at the Austro-Hungarian border, the Austrian police checked their travel documents, but it was a routine affair: after all, on the basis of their papers they were all EU citizens. We also know that the three men headed toward Brussels because on November 17, at the Western Union office in Brussels, “Bouzid” transferred 740 euros to Hasna Aitboulahcen, the French woman who was killed by security forces in St.-Denis. “Kayal” was also in Belgium because his ID card was used to rent a house in Auvelais, a town south of Brussels.

Initial media reports claimed that the two men had been killed in the police raids in St.-Denis, but the information was incorrect. They are on the run and “believed to be armed and dangerous.” The Belgian police have released the two men’s pictures.

So, let’s see how this bare bones story was transformed in Budapest thanks to the combined efforts of the Hungarian secret services (which may include TEK, the anti-terrorist force), the incompetent MSZP head of the parliamentary committee on national security, and the members of the Hungarian government.

Pesti Srácok, the strongly right-wing mouthpiece of Fidesz, was the first to discover the story, and its reporters got in touch with Zsolt Molnár (MSZP), chairman of the committee on national security. People who are unfamiliar with the Hungarian parliamentary structure may wonder why an opposition MP is chairing a parliamentary committee. By tradition the head of this particular committee always comes from the opposition. Unfortunately, Molnár is not the sharpest knife in the drawer; moreover, there is some suspicion about his relations with Fidesz.

Here is the story that emerged from Pesti Srácok‘s description of the interview with Molnár, who naturally only repeated what he had heard from representatives of the secret services. Molnár found the timing of Abdeslam’s trip to Budapest no coincidence. “It was at the time when Germany and Austria opened their borders to the refugees, who could thus cross the borders without any control. It was this situation that Abdeslam and his two companions took advantage of.”

Let’s stop right here for a second. First, we ought to note the implicit accusation that the culprits are Germany and Austria, the two countries that opened their borders. Perhaps if they hadn’t, we wouldn’t have had a terror attack in Paris. Second, Abdeslam, Bouzid, and Kayal didn’t have to register. Abdeslam had a valid Belgian passport and the other two had fake Belgian IDs that it seems no one questioned. So they weren’t taking advantage of the opening of the borders to refugees. Molnár also informed Pesti Srácok that the Austrians had registered them, which “could have happened easily since they didn’t have to show any identification.” Of course, no one registered them. The Austrians stopped the car at the border crossing and, after seeing the Belgian documents, let them continue their journey undisturbed. “The whole affair points to the weakness of the Schengen border defenses, the lack of registration, and the absence of a common European anti-terrorist service.” Yes, the third is a problem, but the first two alleged weaknesses are irrelevant to this case.

Molnár also revealed that TEK, which only learned about Abdeslam’s visit to Budapest from western sources, suddenly discovered that “Abdeslam had been recognized at the Keleti Station.” I assume this is not what Molnár actually wanted to say. Rather, in the last few days some aid workers who were at the Keleti Station seemed to remember him once they were shown his picture. Such identifications are always suspect. Thousands and thousands went through the Keleti Station, and it is highly unlikely that anyone actually remembered him. Moreover, as you will see, I doubt that Abdeslam hung around for any length of time at the station, if he was there at all.

The official Hungarian government version came from János Lázár on Thursday, December 3. The first thing that caught my eye was the following sentence: “The chief organizer of the Paris terror attacks according to our knowledge and supposition did visit the Keleti Station, and there he recruited a team from among those who refused to be registered. He left the country with them.” For starters, we either know something or simply suppose something, not both at the same time. Second, the very idea that Abdeslam went to the crowd that camped out at the station and “recruited” would-be assassins is too bizarre for words. Only a few days ago a story surfaced about two migrants in Germany who turned out to be fighting on the side of ISIS and who were caught because their fellow asylum seekers reported them to the authorities. So, I can well imagine what would have happened to Abdeslam if he stood in the middle of the crowd in Budapest trying to entice people to blow themselves up in Paris. Third, by that time Lázár had to know that Abdeslam left Hungary with only two men, yet he talked about “a team.”

Zoltán Kovács and János Lázár announcing the government version of the recruitment of terrorists in Budapest

Zoltán Kovács and János Lázár announcing the recruitment of terrorists in Budapest

The Associated Press picked up Lázár’s description of Abdeslam’s trip to Budapest, which naturally included his presence at the railroad station. However, the AP chronology doesn’t seem to support TEK’s and Lázár’s claim about Abdeslam’s presence at the station. Let me quote the appropriate passages:

Thousands of refugees had congregated at Keleti over the summer, seeking to board trains bound for Austria and Germany. The situation escalated after Sept. 1, when Hungarian authorities temporarily shut down the station as the flow of migrants grew difficult to control.

This led to protests by migrants, many of whom had valid tickets, demanding to be let on the trains. On Sept. 4, thousands began walking on a highway to Vienna. The Hungarian government then began sending migrants at the station and those on the highway to the Austrian border by bus.

May I remind everybody that Abdeslam and his two companions crossed the border on September 9. By that time trains regularly took asylum seekers to the Austro-Hungarian border where Austrian buses were waiting for them.

Perhaps one day we will learn about this trip in greater detail, but I suspect that the real story went something like this: the two men, perhaps Belgian nationals returning from Syria, got in touch with Abdeslam as soon as they arrived in an EU country, in this case Hungary. Abdeslam showed up in Budapest with the fake IDs and picked them up. And from there it was an easy trip to Belgium. The chain of events was most likely that simple.

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Observer
Guest

J. Lázár “ there he recruited a team from among those who refused to be registered “

It’s getting idiotic, as Éva noted!
Imagine the scene with the deeply secreted terrorist organizer asking around in the crowd for volunteer terrorists s to blow themselves up ? Such recruitment into a terror organization or militia is precisely what many of these young men were trying to escape from.

BTW Éva, the open borders did facilitate the move, otherwise Abdeslam would have been forced to a pick up his men in Serbia or farther and to cross more borders, incl the Hungarian Schengen one on the way back.

bimbi
Guest

The only thing that is clear from this post is that, true to form, the Hungarian spokespersons of whatever colour are merely embellishing stories picked up from releases elsewhere.

But the sad truth of that is that it simply doesn’t matter because all these words – these “suppositions and knowledge” – feed into the principal construct of the Orban government that HUNGARY IS UNDER THREAT. This in turn feeds into the story line that, as the Fidesz anti-immigrant quota signature collection points said, THE COUNTRY MUST BE DEFENDED. And we all know who is going to do that!

The result now is that just yesterday a pair of young men in battle fatigues with the label “MP” in red on their sleeves were seen in Budapest strolling along, each toting a sub-machinegun.

The armed police state takes another step closer.

Ron
Guest

bimbi: The result now is that just yesterday a pair of young men in battle fatigues with the label “MP” in red on their sleeves were seen in Budapest strolling along, each toting a sub-machinegun.

Ever since the attack on Paris, military is guarding the city centre of Budapest as well as other “hotspots”, such as Szentendre Military College. But this is not worrysome to me.

What is, is that the socalled Polgarorseg received new cars, motors and other equipment, similar to the police, but instead of Rendorseg it says Polgarseg. and these guys (I have not seen girls) are now patrolling the streets in villages and cities.

webber
Guest

The MPs are patrolling all major cities, with their machine guns pointed at the ground. Generally you see them around the train stations
comment image

I don’t think it would be one whit better if the Polgárörség had women patrolling.

LwiiH
Guest

I wish the gun were pointed at the ground… in many cases these people seem to have forgotten the muzzle down rule. All of the attackers were EU citizens. I don’t understand the need for fake id.

Guest
Probably they already were on some watch list – so fake ids were better for them. PS and not too much OT: I’ve travelled several time from Hungary via Austria to Germany and back in my car during the last months. The so called border checks are nothing to be afraid of – or maybe well organised by knowledgeable people … The traffic coming from Austria (no border check there!) is just slowed down after the border, so you’re already in Germany – your illegal passengers might just jump out of the car and get into the woods … Several policemen are watching the slowly moving cars and trucks and maybe one in a hundred (or a thousand?) is picked out and ordered to a parking site where checks are made to the baggage and the people. So for all other travellers it’s just a nuisance and a loss of time – depending on traffic it’s between 15 minutes and two hours (!) if you’re really unlucky. I never waited more than 20 minutes (according to my GPS) because I used the info from the Austrian traffic radio and changed routes when Salzburg eg had long waiting times. And of… Read more »
Nicky
Guest

It’s disturbing to see those Fidesz anti-immigrant collection points around our town nowadays, with a Jobbik one popping up just for a bit of variety. All within the area of the beautiful Christmas market. So much for the ‘Season of Goodwill!’

Observer
Guest

J. Lázár “ there he recruited a team from among those who refused to be registered “

Yes, it is getting idiotic.
Just Imagine the scene with the deeply secreted terrorist organizer strolling in the crowd asking for volunteers to blow themselves up, while such a recruitment into a terror organization or militia is precisely what many of these young men were trying to escape from.

BTW Éva, the open borders did facilitate the move, otherwise Abdeslam would have been forced to a pick up his men in Serbia or farther and to cross more borders, incl the Hungarian Schengen one on the way back.

exTor
Guest

http://www.politico.eu/list/politico-28/viktor-orban

This link was already flagged a couple of days ago by Henrietta Foster. It bears reading. Again.

The concatenation of horrific events [Paris, San Bernardino, etcetera] may well nail the coffin in which the West will be interred for a generation.

Terrorism strengthens the hands of rightwing demagogues [Orbán, Trump, etal], a power that is becoming more difficult to fight.

There may well be people who regularly visit Hungarian Spectrum who will now jettison their previous liberal mindsets.

The rightwing does not have to be right. It only must be seen to be doing the right thing by enough people who subscribe to unthinking simplism.

Power is maintained by blind obedience.

MAGYARKOZÓ

webber
Guest

Extor
It isn’t a right vs. left thing, or doesn’t have to be (though Orban would like everyone to think it is).

In some countries, the right also has those who would protect our liberties.
Abraham Lincoln was a Republican, after all.
There are aspects of modern day right-wing liberalism, most particularly libertarianism, that are against any increase in government power.

exTor
Guest

Point taken, webber.

I know that there is no clear demarcation between leftwing and rightwing positions. There are things that a leftwing government, if one were to exist in Hungary now instead of Fidesz, would do that might be almost the same as what Viktor Orbán has done.

My point is not about particulars.

Current realities are pushing politics to the right. (We’ll see what Obama has to say about San Bernardino in his address to the US this evening.) They boost people like Orbán and Trump.

It will be interesting to see how libertarians position themselves now. The Republicans during the Civil War were much further to the left than they now are, just as Fidesz (a quarter century ago) was much further left.

MAGYARKOZÓ

aid worker
Guest
Éva, thank you for this very clear and concise article, delineating what we actually know versus what we’re being told. I worked as a primary organiser of relief efforts at Keleti from roughly the beginning of the arrival of refugees there, until the day the whole operation was shut down and the border (effectively) closed. I dealt with untold thousands of refugees, providing food, water, tickets, bedding, tents and so on. I arranged medical care for many. Generally, I worked eighteen-hour days, and in more than two months, I took just one day off. Due to exhaustion! I remember very few faces specifically. Those I do recall are almost all children whose charm and life in the face of a very negative experience buoyed my own spirits from day to day. The idea that any volunteer there could identify any single adult male without in-depth, long-term interaction is preposterous, especially if that person were a ‘recruiter’ for terrorists! Several things surprised me during my work at Keleti. On only a couple of occasions did I even see anyone pray, There were Christians who proselytised with Arabic-language pamphlets; they were treated with respect (at the least) by all the refugees. Any… Read more »
Member

Most Hungarians think that Syrian refugees are coming from third world circumstances. In fact many of the refugees gave up way more than the average Hungarians have. Many refugees are well informed about the world (versus many Hungarians), and this is why Hungary was never their final destination. Orban tries to sell that Hungary is such a desirable place but in fact it is only desirable for tourists or people who would like to retire. It is not a great destination for young professionals or to those who are looking for work.

LwiiH
Guest

Retire here? With healthcare in the state it is in today? Just this week our neighbor went into labour and she was asked to hold the baby for a few days more as the hospital had no staff to deal with her. On that day, that hospital just had 8 Dr. quit because they could no longer cope with the workload.

webber
Guest
OT For Istvan and others who doubt: Gun control legislation passed this year in Oregon, a far Western state with a high-degree of gun ownership, and a significant percentage of the population who hunt for meat (not sport). I quote: “Over 90% of the general population” (of the US!) “wants universal background checks,” … “Eighty-three percent of gun owners want it, and 70% of NRA members want it. The American public is ready.” … In Oregon ‘“If you ask people about ‘gun control’, they might say they don’t like it. But if you ask people about specifics, like assault rifles or background checks, they’re overwhelmingly for it. People want change,” … “So we put the vote in their hands.” It’s simple to vote in Oregon, which holds all elections by mail. When residents apply for drivers’ licenses they are automatically registered to vote, and about three weeks before an election they receive a ballot in the mail. They fill it out at home and send it back. “It’s so easy,” By focusing on gun control, activists had essentially turned the election into a referendum on guns. When the dust – and the dollars – settled, two new Democratic candidates won… Read more »
Istvan
Guest
As Eva correctly notes the reports that Salah Abdeslam, the suspected organizer of the Paris terrorist attacks, was in Budapest made the news here in the USA. Its part of the wave here of people being unsettled by the west coast attacks. If one reads the LA Times the most stunning aspect of this coverage is really not hysteria, but the testimony of co-workers, family members, and neighbors of the apparent normality of the shooters. Here is a expert from today’s LA Times: “Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, 29 had blended into the small-town atmosphere of Redlands without drawing the attention of law enforcement. That has residents wondering who else might be plotting an attack.” The vast majority of Americans, like Hungarians, pay only limited attention to the Islamic State. The majority of Americans no longer regularly read newspapers or even watch more in depth news shows. For the most part (71%) of US adults get their world news through short snippets on local news shows that feature traffic reports, sports, along with weather, and local murder reports at least here in Chicago. When something like the West Coast attack take place people suddenly pay attention and are… Read more »
bimbi
Guest

What I read here about the electorate in the US puts me in mind of the description in “Deer Hunting with Jesus: Guns, Votes, Debt and Delusion in Redneck America” by Joe Bageant who in answering the question of why Dubbya (Bush) got elected for a second term opined that it was because the electorate were “stupid”, “downright stupid” and “dumber than owl shit”. He had a point. It appears that “stupidity” is not an uncommon characteristic of electorates, especially if the information they are offered is limited, distorted and just plain false. [e.g., the ‘Vizitdíj’ and now “turrism”].

It is, however, reassuring to see confirmed above by others the observation of the tightening grip on Hungarian society of the “security forces” now openly toting guns – and which of them does not have siren-equipped vehicles in which to scream around the streets of the capital?

Control, control, control.

Member

Here is my theory. People who made the very dangerous trek away from ISIS would not sign up at Keleti Station to be part of Isis. So Lazar or any of those bootlickers to say that Abdeslam went all the way there just to try recruit is so stupid that it beats all of their previous stupidity. At the same time it serves well those who stand there just waiting for any wisdom to fall from the circle of the dear, does not matter how ridiculous it is. It is like standing with open mouth waiting for manna from Heaven. (We have a few commenters popping up like that here.) Likely some members of ISIS arrived to Keleti Station with the refugees, otherwise they would of been flagged. When they were in Hungary, they contacted whoever they needed to contact, and passed on their location. It was already a part of the plan. Abdeslam simply went there and picked them up. They were not refugees to begin with.

So, what is next? Will Orban shut down tourism to Hungary, as often criminals “pretend” to be tourists? Will Orban outlaw tourism to Hungary from visible minorities?

Ron
Guest

Some1: So, what is next? Will Orban shut down tourism to Hungary, as often criminals “pretend” to be tourists? Will Orban outlaw tourism to Hungary from visible minorities?

Well that and re-introduce border controls (stop Schengen), re-introduce extra power to the police, anti-terror and other law (read: governmental) agencies, introduce camara’s to documents all parts of Hungarian life, etc, etc,and etc.

All that is not applicable if you bring in lots of money or buy governmental bonds, then you can do whatever you want as long as you are not criticizing the government.

Guest

London Calling!

Zoltán Kovács and János Lázár!!!!

Lying toads.

Kovács came on to Channel 4 here in England and claimed that 10% of the refugees wanted to claim asylum in Hungary! Lying toad!

Lázár is a fully renowned Orban flunky and liar. Absolute lying toad. King lying toad of the lying toads.

I suspect they want to show how important they are – and Hungary is – in the international conspiracy and are ‘giving it the large’ and playing big-boy politics.

The biggest lying toads in lying toadum.

They are fools – and the Tek are keystone cops.

Regards

Charlie

Guest

I also know that people in the BBC realised that they were giving too much prominence to Kovács and the word went out – no more interviews.

I think they realised he was just a propaganda front – or certainly an integrity problem.

spectator
Guest
Actually it seems pretty obvious: they feel that sooner or later the responsibility of the Hungarian authorities will be put on the table, and they want to preempt this by blaming the ones who “refused to be registered”! As it was so easy! -Say, Abdul, want to register in Hungary? -No way man! -Sorry for asking, have a safe trip, this way, please..! If I’m mistaken and it didn’t went down like this, then there’s some explanation required about the process. Otherwise the Hungarians did their best to apprehend terrorists! They really did! Remember, the man with the bullhorn in Röszke? He was the main culprit, and one of his friends another. However, it turned out that the sneaky bastards not only worked (volunteered) for some Human Rights organisation — a horrible crime in Hungary today – but they even managed to outsmart and escape the whole Hungarian task-force, (TEK) and defied international warrants, issued by Hungary! So, the Hungarian government relentlessly fought with terrorism, but then came around a tourist by car and took with him whoever he wanted… It’s all happened, because of the civilian organisations and the trains which transported refugees..! How comes, nobody understand this? Could… Read more »
petofi
Guest

@CharlieH

(Wow, toads must really be hated in Britain…)

But I appreciate your bitterness: Hungarians–and, yeah, I mean ALL Hungarians because of the continuous backing for a jive-ass leader–have really pushed DECENCY off the table of daily common life.

LYING–it has a tactical use. When a government has no reputation to speak of, it will say anything. Telling a lie catches people off guard; to stop and say, ‘wait, I need to check into this further’. That delay allows time to pass and by the time people return to the original lie, the offending party has moved on. The original lie becomes passe.

The TACTICAL LIE plays on people’s doubt.

Guest

Petofi!

We love all toads and frogs in England – we spend a lot of time moving them off warm steamy roads in Summer!

But we don’t like lying toads!

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