Abdelhamid Abaaoud

Abdelhamid Abaaoud was the alleged coordinator of the November 13, 2015, gun and suicide bombing attacks in Paris.Josh Halliday and Jonathan Bucks, “Suspected Paris attacks mastermind Abdelhamid Abaaoud: what we know,” Guardian (London), November 16, 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/16/abdelhamid-abaaoud-suspected-mastermind-of-paris-terror-attacks;
David Chazan, “True Mastermind of Paris Terror Attacks ‘Still at Large,’” Telegraph (London), July 13, 2016, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/07/13/true-paris-attacks-mastermind-still-at-large/.
The attacks—targeting public venues including France’s soccer stadium, Bataclan music hall, as well as restaurants, bars, and cafes—claimed the lives of 130 and wounded more than 350.Cara Anna, “Names, details of more victims emerge from Paris attacks,” Washington Post, November 16, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/names-details-of-more-victims-emerge-from-paris-attacks/2015/11/16/82ab7bda-8c3f-11e5-934c-a369c80822c2_story.html. Abaaoud was killed on November 18, 2015, during a major police raid in the Paris suburb of St. Denis. At least one other person, a woman who detonated a suicide vest, was reported killed in the seven-hour-long raid.Aurelien Breeden and Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura, “Chief Suspect in Paris Attacks Died in Raid, France Says,” New York Times, November 19, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/20/world/europe/paris-attacks.html.

Abaaoud was a Belgian national of Moroccan origin. He is believed to have left for Syria in early 2014 and returned to Europe at some point later that year.Andrew Higgins, “Belgium Confronts the Jihadist Danger Within,” New York Times, January 24, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/25/world/europe/belgium-confronts-the-jihadist-danger-within.html?smid=tw-nytimes&smtyp=cur;
Aurelien Breeden and Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura, “Chief Suspect in Paris Attacks Died in Raid, France Says,” New York Times, November 19, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/20/world/europe/paris-attacks.html.
Abaaoud was first identified by police as a wanted terrorist in January 2015, following a gun battle between Belgian police and suspected ISIS jihadists in Verviers, eastern Belgium.Josh Halliday and Jonathan Bucks, “Suspected Paris attacks mastermind Abdelhamid Abaaoud: what we know,” Guardian (London), November 16, 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/16/abdelhamid-abaaoud-suspected-mastermind-of-paris-terror-attacks. The extremist cell in Verviers—reportedly led by Abaaoud—stands accused of plotting an assassination attempt on Belgian police officers. Abaaoud has been tried in absentia by a Belgian court and sentenced to 20 years in prison for his role in recruiting for ISIS. He has also been accused of kidnapping his younger brother Younes, who traveled to Syria in January 2014.Josh Halliday and Jonathan Bucks, “Suspected Paris attacks mastermind Abdelhamid Abaaoud: what we know,” Guardian (London), November 16, 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/16/abdelhamid-abaaoud-suspected-mastermind-of-paris-terror-attacks.

While with ISIS in Syria, Abaaoud was one of the most active executioners for the terrorist group, according to French radio station RTL.Jean Alphonse-Richard, “Attentats à Paris: Abdelhamid Abaaoud, commanditaire présumé des attaques,” RTL, November 16, 2015, http://www.rtl.fr/actu/societe-faits-divers/attentats-a-paris-abdelhamid-abaoud-commanditaire-presume-des-attaques-7780524858. He also appeared in a 2014 video driving a pick-up truck carrying mutilated bodies to a mass grave.Josh Halliday and Jonathan Bucks, “Suspected Paris attacks mastermind Abdelhamid Abaaoud: what we know,” Guardian (London), November 16, 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/16/abdelhamid-abaaoud-suspected-mastermind-of-paris-terror-attacks. Before his death, he was believed to serve as the link between senior ISIS leadership and its operatives in Europe,Paul Cruickshank, “Who is Abdelhamid Abaaoud, suspected ringleader of the Paris terror attack?” CNN, November 18, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/16/europe/paris-terror-attack-mastermind-abdelhamid-abaaoud/. and was also the suspected leader of ISIS's Katibat al-Battar al Libi branch.Andrew Higgins and Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura, “An ISIS Militant From Belgium Whose Own Family Wanted Him Dead,” New York Times, November 17, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/18/world/europe/paris-attacks-abdelhamid-abaaoud-an-isis-militant-from-belgium-whose-own-family-wanted-him-dead.html.

In addition to the deadly November 13 attacks, Abaaoud was linked to the thwarted August 2015 train attack carried out by suspect Ayoub El Khazzani, as well as a foiled attack on a Parisian church in April 2015.Josh Halliday and Jonathan Bucks, “Suspected Paris attacks mastermind Abdelhamid Abaaoud: what we know,” Guardian (London), November 16, 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/16/abdelhamid-abaaoud-suspected-mastermind-of-paris-terror-attacks. In an interview with ISIS’s Dabiq magazine following the January 2015 raid in Belgium, Abaaoud claimed to have evaded Belgian authorities and escaped back to Syria. He also claimed that he was stopped, but ultimately released, by an officer who recognized him.“Interview with Abu Umar al-Baljiki,” Dabiq, February 2015, https://azelin.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/the-islamic-state-e2809cdc481biq-magazine-722.pdf.

Abaaoud was raised in the highly volatile Molenbeek suburb of Brussels, infamous for producing a large number of the country’s foreign fighters, jihadists, and assailants. Abaaoud himself was believed to have been radicalized in Belgium’s Saint Gilles prison, while serving time there on theft charges.Andrew Higgins, “Belgium Confronts the Jihadist Danger Within,” New York Times, January 24, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/25/world/europe/belgium-confronts-the-jihadist-danger-within.html?smid=tw-nytimes&smtyp=cur. He was the subject of Western airstrikes in Raqqa, Syria, as recently as October 2015.Paul Cruickshank, “Who is Abdelhamid Abaaoud, suspected ringleader of the Paris terror attack?” CNN, November 18, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/16/europe/paris-terror-attack-mastermind-abdelhamid-abaaoud/.

 
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