Thursday 29 September 2016

Mastermind of Paris attacks Abdelhamid Abaaoud believed to have opened firing at restaurants and bars

His fingerprints were found on one of three Kalashnikovs used

Published 21/11/2015 | 09:41

This undated image made available in the Islamic State's English-language magazine Dabiq, shows Belgian national Abdelhamid Abaaoud. Abaaoud, the child of Moroccan immigrants who grew up in the Belgian capital's Molenbeek-Saint-Jean neighborhood, was identified by French authorities on Monday Nov. 16, 2015, as the presumed mastermind of the terror attacks last Friday in Paris that killed over a hundred people and injured
This undated image made available in the Islamic State's English-language magazine Dabiq, shows Belgian national Abdelhamid Abaaoud. Abaaoud, the child of Moroccan immigrants who grew up in the Belgian capital's Molenbeek-Saint-Jean neighborhood, was identified by French authorities on Monday Nov. 16, 2015, as the presumed mastermind of the terror attacks last Friday in Paris that killed over a hundred people and injured

Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected commander of last Friday’s Paris attacks, was the commando that opened fire on bars and restaurants, investigators now believe, after his fingerprints were found on one of three Kalashnikovs used.

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The Belgian-Moroccan 28-year old Isil operative was killed in a gun battle with police in Saint-Denis, on Wednesday along with his cousin Hasna Aitboulahcen and an unidentified male, who blew himself up.

CCTV footage emerged on Friday of Abaaoud jumping a ticket barrier in Paris’ metro system minutes after the attacks on bars and restaurants and while fellow jihadists were still committing mass slaughter in the Bataclan concert hall.

He dodged a fare at the Croix de Chavaux station in the Paris suburb of Montreuil, 200 yards from where one of the cars used in the attacks was found.

Belgian Abdelhamid Abaaoud is believed to have masterminded the attacks in Paris
Belgian Abdelhamid Abaaoud is believed to have masterminded the attacks in Paris

The CCTV showed Abaaoud at the station at 10.14pm on the night of the atrocities, suggesting he played a more active role in the attacks than previously thought.

A Seat car was found abandoned near the same Metro station at the weekend with three Kalashnikov rifles inside.

The discovery of his fingerprints on one of these weapons strongly suggests he was part of the so-called “terrace commando”, according to a source close to the inquiry.

Earlier today, Belgium's capital woke today to a security lockdown as the national crisis centre raised its terrorism alert to its highest level and at least one suspect from the Paris attacks remains at large.

Authorities across Europe, the Middle East and in Washington are trying to determine how a network of primarily French and Belgian attackers with links to Islamic extremists in Syria plotted and carried out the deadliest violence in France in decades - and how many may still be on the run.

Belgium's national Crisis Centre raised its terrorism alert for the Brussels region to Level 4, which indicates a "serious and immediate threat".

The Belgian capital was home to the suspected organiser of the November 13 Paris attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, and Belgium has filed charges of "participation in terrorist attacks and participation in the activities of a terrorist organisation" against three suspects relating to the Paris attacks.

Heavily armed police and soldiers patrolled on Saturday morning at key intersections of the Belgian capital, a city of more than one million that is home to the headquarters of the European Union, the Nato alliance and offices of many multinational corporations.

Residents were recommended to avoid gatherings, train stations, airports and commercial districts. Service was halted on the Brussels Metro, as well as on streetcar lines that run underground, and residents were urged to stay indoors.

In Turkey, authorities detained three suspected Islamic State militants, including a 26-year-old Belgian of Moroccan descent.

The two Syrians and the Belgian national - identified as Ahmet D - were detained near the Turkish coastal city of Antalya, the state-run Anadolu Agency said.

The private Dogan news agency identified the Belgian as Ahmet Dahmani and said he is suspected of having explored areas in Paris that were targeted in the attacks.

Shell-shocked Parisians honoured the 130 victims on Friday night with candles and dancing, marking exactly a week since attackers opened fire on pavement cafes and exploded suicide vests at the national stadium and a rock concert venue.

Concerns about Europe's porous borders prompted interior and justice ministers meeting in Brussels on Friday to promise tightened border controls to make it easier to track the movements of jihadis with European passports travelling to and from warzones in Syria.

Prosecutors said that they had determined through fingerprint checks that two of the seven attackers who died in the bloodshed on November 13 had entered Europe through Greece, an entry point for many of the hundreds of thousands of migrants seeking asylum in Europe.

The five other attackers who died had links to France and Belgium.

One of the seven dead has not been identified, while a manhunt is under way for one suspect who escaped, Salah Abdeslam, 26. French police stopped Abdeslam the morning after Friday's attacks at the Belgian border but then let him go.

French officials said on Saturday they could not ascertain for certain whether Abdeslam might be in France or Belgium. His brother Brahim blew himself up in the Paris attacks.

The suspected ringleader, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, was killed in a raid early on Wednesday on an apartment in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis, along with Hasna Aitboulahcen, a 26-year-old woman who officials said had described herself as Abaaoud's cousin. Prosecutors said on Friday that a third person was killed in the raid but did not release the identity.

They also said Aitboulahcen had not blown herself up with a suicide vest, as initially believed, which suggests the body parts collected after the raid belonged to the third, as-yet-unidentified, person.

Marking a week since the carnage, some Parisians lit candles and paid tribute to the victims with silent reflection. Others decided that enjoying themselves was the best way to defy the extremists. They sang and danced on Place de la Republique, in the heart of a trendy neighbourhood where scores of people were killed, most of them in the attack on the Bataclan concert hall.

Demonstrations have been banned in the city since the attacks, but Parisians have been spontaneously gathering all week outside the restaurants, cafes and concert hall hit in the attacks to leave flowers, light candles or hold quiet vigils.

France's senate on Friday voted to extend for three months a state of emergency, which expands police powers to carry out arrests and searches and allows authorities to forbid the movement of persons and vehicles at specific times and places. France's lower chamber has already approved the measure.

French president Francois Hollande is also going to Washington and Moscow next week to push for a stronger international coalition against IS.

Belgium's interior minister said the country's situation is "serious" but under control.

Jan Jambon told reporters as he arrived for a special security cabinet meeting that "the situation is serious. Otherwise we would not go to Level 4, but the situation is under control".

Elsewhere in Brussels life seemed to go on much as usual, with plenty of traffic in the streets.

The Pro League, the federation of Belgium's top football clubs, said it would play this weekend's games as scheduled despite a recommendation from the government that they be cancelled.

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