A 27-year-old Belgian student named Abdelhamid Abaaoud has been identified by French authorities as the “mastermind” behind the Paris attacks on Friday, according to the Toronto Sun and Yahoo! News. At least 129 people are reported to have been killed, with hundreds more injured, many seriously.
Videos going back several months with France 24 describe Abdelhamid Abaaoud as being the “mastermind” of a cell of Belgian extremists. Abaaoud is said to be “public enemy number one” in Belgium.
He is reported to have ordered the 2015 Thalys train attack, according to the BBC, as well as thwarted attacks on a church in the Paris borough of Villejuif. Abaaoud is also reported to have traveled to in 2014 to fight alongside Islamic State, or ISIS militants. He is also shown in videos driving a car with a body dragging behind it on the ground.
Abaaoud is described as being a ISIS recruiter trying to gain members. The alleged Paris attacks mastermind was reported to have recruited his younger brother, 13-year-old Younes Abaaoud, to join him in Syria. Earlier in 2015, it was reported that his apartment in Verviers was raided and that two jihadi associates were killed by authorities.
Abaaoud was said to have escaped to Syria at the time of the raid, but was reported to have since traveled to Greece and back to Belgium, as well.
“All my life, I have seen the blood of Muslims flow,” Abaaoud was quoted in a clip reportedly published in 2014. “I pray that Allah will break the backs of those who oppose him, his soldiers and his admirers, and that he will exterminate them.”
— Jason Hodgson (@JasonJames85) November 17, 2015
The wanted, alleged murderer was said to have boasted about an encounter with a law enforcement officer who compared his face with his mugshot, and failed to see any “resemblance.” Three others thought to be members of Abaaoud’s group were reported to have been arrested over the weekend. Searches and investigations continue.
In the August Thalys train attack, thwarted by off-duty members of the U.S. military, Ayoub El Khazzani was “overpowered” by the men. El Khazzani is suspected to have ties to Abdelhamid Abaaoud and the Belgian ISIS cell. He is now being held in a French prison on charges of murder, among others.
In the thwarted Villejuif church attacks, suspected Abaaoud associate Sid Ahmed Ghlam supposedly accidentally shot himself and called police for assistance. His actions reportedly alerted authorities to an “arsenal” of weapons assembled in a terror plot that was to have been “masterminded” from Syria.
Abdelhamid Abaaoud was described as being a “happy-go-lucky student” at one of Brussels’ most highly-regarded high schools, Saint-Pierre d’Uccle. Today, Abaaoud is described as having “morphed into Belgium’s most notorious jihadi, a zealot…”
— Jim Roberts (@nycjim) November 16, 2015
The suspected terror attack mastermind is described as having a family of Moroccan ancestry and to have grown up in the Molenbeek-Saint-Jean community of the capital of Belgium, Brussels.
The neighborhood is reported to have become a “focal point” of radicalism and a prime recruiting ground for ISIS to find new members.
Though he has not officially asked for a war declaration from French Parliament, President Francois Hollande did not mince words when addressing a “rare” joint session of the main legislative body of France.
“France is at war,” Hollande was quoted by the Atlantic. “Terrorism will not destroy the Republic, because it is the Republic that will destroy terrorism.”
Hollande is expected to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin to form a “unified coalition” against ISIS. Both the U.S. and Russian governments are seen as sharing a stance to end violence at the hands of ISIS, but are in disagreement on the methods to be used in putting a stop to the terror group. Hollande is described as “probably hoping” that he is able to bridge any divides between the two leaders and to bring the group to a consensus.
[Photo by Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images]