A French journalist has managed to infiltrate a Paris street gang, inspired by the Islamic State (Isis), that bragged about wanting to bring down a passenger jet with a rocket launcher. The Muslim journalist used the pseudonym Said Ramzi to gain access to the gang, led by a Franco-Turkish "emir" known as Oussama.
The journalist told AFP that he gained the group's trust by interacting with them on Facebook. He was then invited to meet Oussama and other members of the gang at a deserted activity centre in Chateauroux , around 170 miles (270 km) south of Paris.
"My goal was to understand what was going on inside their heads," said Ramzi. "One of the main lessons was that I never saw any Islam in this affair. No will to improve the world. Only lost, frustrated, suicidal, easily manipulated youths. They had the misfortune of being born in the era that the Islamic State exists. It is very sad. They are youngsters who are looking for something and that is what they found."
It transpired that Oussama had tried to reach Isis in Syria but had been arrested by Turkish authorities before being returned to France. He spent five months in prison but was then released. He was told to show his face at a police station every day but was still able to communicate with other jihadists using the Telegram app.
Ramzi managed to obtain video footage of Oussama laughing as he described being killed in a shoot-out rather than surrendering to police. Asked what he would do if ordered to surrender Oussama said: "I won't make too many gestures. You never know if they are watching us. And ra-ta-ta-ta (mimics the sound of gunfire) ... Until you have taken at least 20 bullets in the body. They will be a relief... because a martyr doesn't feel pain."
At another meeting, in the Paris suburb of Stains, another member of the gang pointed at planes landing at Bourget airport. "With a little rocket-launcher, you can easily get one of them," he bragged. "You do something like that in the name of Dawla (ISIS), and France will be traumatised for a century."
Ramzi's investigation came as part of a programme, "Allah's Soldiers," to be screened in France on 2 May. Paris police - still reeling following the deadly attacks in November - cracked down on the gang but one evaded capture and texted Ramzi to say: "You're done for man." He ended his investigation. "That is where my infiltration ended," said Ramzi.