Friday 20 April 2018

Text to Bataclan attacker's mother reveals third gunman's identity

The Bataclan theatre was worst hit during the Paris attacks
The Bataclan theatre was worst hit during the Paris attacks

The third gunman who terrorised Paris's Bataclan concert hall before being killed last month in the attack has been identified as a Frenchman who left for Syria in 2013.

The development came after his mother received a text message announcing his death and gave a DNA sample to police.

The news was further confirmation that the deadly Paris attacks were carried out largely, if not entirely, by Europeans trained by the Islamic State group in Syria.

All the November 13 attackers identified so far have been from France or Belgium, native French speakers who joined Islamic State extremists.

The Bataclan attackers, who carried automatic weapons and wore suicide vests, were responsible for the worst of the carnage. Of the 130 killed in Paris that night, nearly three-quarters died at the concert venue.

Foued Mohamed-Aggad left Strasbourg for Syria in late 2013, a French judicial official said, at a time when about a dozen young men from the eastern French city headed to the war zone. Some returned of their own will - including his brother - telling investigators they were disgusted by what they had seen.

The Frenchman many of the returnees said recruited them for IS, Mourad Fares, is also under arrest. All are charged with terror-related offences and face trial.

Mohamed-Aggad's mother received a text message in English about 10 days ago announcing her son's death "as a martyr" on November 13 - a typical way that IS notifies families of casualties.

Then she gave French police a DNA sample which showed that one of her sons was killed inside the Bataclan, his brother's lawyer said, confirming an account by French officials.

"Without the mother, there would have been nothing," said the lawyer, Francoise Cotta.

Ms Cotta said Mohamed-Aggad had told his family months ago that he was going to be a suicide bomber in Iraq and had no intention of returning to France. She told The Associated Press that Mohamed-Aggad was flagged as a radical but there was no warrant for his arrest.

"What kind of human being could do what he did?" his father, Said, told The Parisien newspaper. "If I had known he would do something like this, I would have killed him."

The other two Bataclan attackers, Omar Ismail Mostefai and Samy Amimour, were also French. Two of the three gunmen detonated their explosives when police special forces moved in, while the third was shot by an officer and his explosives went off.

There is still identification work for the police to do. One of the Paris attackers, who was killed on November 18 in a police raid on a hideout nearby, remains unidentified. Two of the suicide bombers at the French national stadium carried Syrian passports that are believed to be fake.

"What is important is that the investigation is progressing, that the accomplices are found out, that arrests happen," French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said.

"This will all take time. And in the face of the terrorist threat that is unfortunately here, we need to carry on with this work of tracking down terrorists because we are at war with radical Islam, with Daesh," he said, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group, which claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Attackers who struck Paris that night included three suicide bombers at the stadium, a squad who shot up bars and restaurants, a suicide bomber at a restaurant and the three gunmen at the Bataclan.

Press Association

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