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REVEALED: The 'barbaric' man behind the Paris attacks

November 17, 2015 08:04 IST

Belgian-born Abdelhamid Abaaoud has been identified as the alleged mastermind of the Paris attacks, a French official has revealed.

The 28-year-old is known to authorities as an Islamic extremist and is believed to be linked to thwarted attacks on a high-speed train from Amsterdam bound for Paris in August, as well as a planned attack on a Parisian church.

“He appears to be the brains behind several planned attacks in Europe,” a source close to the investigation said.

Abaaoud was the investigators’ best lead as the person likely behind the killing of at least 129 people in Paris on Friday.

According to investigators, Abaaoud, a 28-year-old of Moroccan descent, went to Syria sometime in 2013 or 2014 and has been travelling in and out of Europe. At least, two of the men involved in Friday’s horrendous tragedy had connections to Abaaoud and also came from the same

and slipped in and out of Europe since. He is now thought to be back in Syria. At least two of the men thought to be directly involved in the Paris attacks had years-long connections to him and came from the same neighborhood in Brussels that has become a breeding ground for European jihadists.

In August, a French foreign fighter arrested after his return to France told intelligence officials that Abaaoud had instructed him to strike at densely populated targets, including a “concert hall.”

“He is a barbaric man,” said a French official familiar with the case.

In an interview printed in Islamic State’s english magazine, Dabiq, Abaaoud told how he had travelled to Belgium to “terrorise the crusaders waging war against the Muslims”.

He bragged: “My name and picture were all over the news yet I was able to stay in their homeland, plan operations against them, and leave safely when doing so became necessary.”

The developments emerged as officials announced that five of the seven suicide bombers who died on Friday had now been identified. Four were French, and the fifth possibly Syrian. One of three attackers who blew themselves up at the Bataclan, where 89 people died, was identified on Monday as Samy Amimour, 28, from the Paris suburb of Drancy, who was the subject of an international arrest warrant.

Another, who detonated his explosive vest outside the Stade de France stadium, was carrying a Syrian passport in the name of Ahmad Almohammad, aged 25, from Idlib. His fingerprints matched those of someone who transited the Greek island of Leros in October, prosecutors said, claiming asylum in Serbia four days later.

Omar Ismaïl Mostefai, 29, from Chartres, south-west of Paris, was the first killer to be officially identified, from a severed finger found inside the Bataclan. Sources close to the investigation named two other French assailants as Bilal Hadfi and Brahim Abdeslam.