For immediate release | Wednesday, November 18, 2015

CEP Releases Resources on Extremism in France and Belgium Following ISIS Terror Attacks

Press Contact:

Media at CEP

(New York, NY) – The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) is releasing updated resources on terrorism and counterterrorism in France and Belgium following the November 13 attacks that took the lives of at least 129 people and wounded more than 350. A separate report is also being released on alleged attack leader Abdelhamid Abaaoud.

On November 13, 2015, eight ISIS operatives attacked multiple sites throughout Paris: the Stade de France, the Bataclan concert hall, and restaurants in central Paris: Le Carillon, Le Petit Cambodge, La Belle Equipe, Cafe Bonne Bière, Comptoir Voltaire, and La Casa Nostra. The majority of the 129 casualties occurred at the concert hall, where gunmen massacred 89 people.

Six of the attackers died after detonating explosive belts and another was killed by police. The eighth, Belgian Salah Abdeslam, remains at large. At least one suspect, “Ahmad al Muhammad,” was carrying a Syrian passport, reportedly counterfeit, and traveled through Greece; another, Ismaël Omar Mostefaï, is a French ex-convict; and another assailant, French-born Samy Amimour, was wanted by French police on charges related to a previous terror investigation. The “mastermind” of the attack was identified by French authorities as Belgian-born Abdelhamid Abaaoud, initially believed to be residing in Syria. A number of the suspects—mastermind Abaaoud, Bataclan assailant Bilal Hadfi, Stade de France assailant Ibrahim Abdelsam, and suspected accomplice Salah Abdeslam, were born in Belgium. At least two of the suspects—Abaaoud and Hadfi—are understood to have spent time in Syria before traveling back to Europe.

The manhunt for Salah Abdeslam and others terrorists led French security forces on November 18 to an apartment in the Paris suburb of St.-Denis. The Paris attacks ringleader, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, was reportedly killed in the raid. A female suspect was confirmed dead after detonating a suicide vest. Seven individuals were taken into custody.

ISIS called the deadly Paris attacks, “the first of a storm.” Witnesses reported one assailant shouting “Allahu Akbar” at the Bataclan music venue. French President Francois Hollande declared the attacks “an act of war,” declared a national state of emergency, and launched retaliatory airstrikes on ISIS’s headquarters in Raqqa, Syria.

The Paris attacks are not the first involving Belgian-based jihadists. Belgian jihadist Abdelhamid Abaaoud—from Molenbeek, a notorious Brussels neighborhood—is linked to a group in Verviers, Belgium that was raided by police days after the January 15 attack at the Paris offices of magazine Charlie Hebdo. He is believed to be responsible for planning an August 2015 attack on a high-speed train from Amsterdam to Paris that was foiled and a thwarted attack on a Parisian church in April 2015. Since 2010, an estimated 500 Belgians have left or attempted to leave the country to serve as foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria, making Belgium the highest per capita exporter of foreign fighters in Western Europe. 

The France and Belgium Extremism & Counter-Extremism reports include: Domestic radicalization; foreign fighters; recent changes in laws and policies; counter extremism efforts abroad; and a timeline of major extremist and terror incidents. The French report also contains the results of polling data revealing French attitudes on the threat posed by Islamist extremism.

To view the updated France report, click here

To view the updated Belgium report, click here.

To view the report on the alleged attack leader Abdelhamid Abaaoud, click here.