European intelligence sources and security experts believe that Ahmed Zaoui provided Algerian terrorists in Europe with financial or logistical support, although he played no active role in any violence.
Interviews with these sources and access to judicial files in France, Belgium and Switzerland in a weeks-long inquiry by the Weekend Herald shed crucial light on how Zaoui spent his five years in Europe.
They also help to explain one of the mysteries of the Zaoui affair: why, if he was supposed to be a big figure in Algerian terrorism, he was convicted only on minor charges before being flown out of Europe.
The reason, several sources say, was that Zaoui played at most a supporting role in the activities of the bloody Algerian terrorist group the GIA, and that police moves against him came after French authorities gave priority to dismantling the logistics networks that supported the terrorist groups.
In contrast with America’s all-out war on terror, French strategy has always been to attack terrorist networks at their weakest point – logistics and finances – to hinder their operations.