Mastermind behind Paris attacks identified

Nov 16, 2015, 9:16 AM EST
Washington D.C., November 14, 2015
(Image credit: L.Vergnaud)
French authorities have identified the mastermind behind Friday's deadly attacks in Paris, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian national currently in Syria. On the homefront, French police carried out a series of overnight raids targeting suspected Islamists. In a statement to journalists, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said, "Let this be clear to everyone, this is just the beginning, these actions are going to continue." The raids come shortly after France sent warplanes into Syria on Sunday to pound Islamic State positions. 

French police have launched an international hunt for a Belgian-born man they believe helped organize the assaults with two of his brothers, writes Reuters. One of the brothers died in the attacks, while the second one is under arrest in Belgium, a judicial source said. A further two French suicide attackers have been identified, police said, while the identity of four other assailants, who all died in the violence, was still under review.

France has been bombing Islamic State positions in Iraq and Syria for months as part of a U.S.-led operation. Following Friday's mayhem, Paris vowed to destroy the group. Underlining its resolve, French jets on Sunday launched their biggest raids in Syria to date, hitting its stronghold in Raqqa.

"The raid ... including 10 fighter jets, was launched simultaneously from the United Arab Emirates and Jordan. Twenty bombs were dropped," the Defence Ministry said. Among the targets were a munitions depot and training camp, it said.

French police on Sunday identified one of the gunmen involved in the coordinated assault on Paris, as the capital prepared to remember the lives of the attacks' victims at a special mass to be held at Notre Dame Cathedral. Omar Ismail Mostefai, a 29-year-old Paris native, writes Al Jazeera, was named as one of the seven assailants, all of whom were wearing suicide bomb vests packed with explosives, who died during Friday’s rampage. His detached finger was found overnight at the Bataclan concert hall, the scene of the bloodiest attack. French media described him as a French-born man of Algerian descent. Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said he had a security file for radicalization, adding that he had a criminal record but had never spent time in jail.

Several Kalashnikovs have been found in an abandoned car believed to have been used by some of the Paris attackers, French judicial sources say, according to the BBC.

The black Seat car was found in the eastern Paris suburb of Montreuil on Sunday, suggesting some of the attackers got away. Earlier, the first of the seven dead attackers was named as Ismail Mostefai. Six people close to him are in custody. Two attackers lived in the Brussels area, Belgian prosecutors said.

Meanwhile, CNN reports, at least one of the terrorists who attacked civilians in Paris on Friday entered the European Union hidden among the wave of refugees arriving on European shores.

One of three bombers who detonated himself at the Stade de France late Friday arrived on the Greek island of Leros on October 3 among numerous Syrian refugees, CNN's Christiane Amanpour reported, citing an unnamed French senator who was briefed by the Ministry of the Interior.

The man declared himself to be Syrian, said his name was Ahmad al Mohammad and was, under new procedures set up to help refugees, issued a new emergency passport. From Leros, he traveled to Macedonia, Serbia and then Croatia, Amanpour reported.

The fingerprints from the bomber at the Stade de France match those taken when the man was issued his emergency passport on Leros. The two others who detonated themselves at the stadium carried false Turkish passports, Amanpour reported.

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