Boast­ful ji­hadist master­minded Paris at­tacks

Kuwait Times - - ANALY S I S - By Philippe Siuberski

Bel­gian ji­hadist Ab­del­hamid Abaaoud, the sus­pected Paris at­tacks mas­ter­mind tar­geted in a French po­lice raid yes­ter­day, was a school­yard bully who had re­cently taunted the West from an Is­lamic State base in Syria. Abaaoud, a 28-year-old from Brussels of Moroc­can ori­gin, has been linked to a se­ries of Is­lamic ex­trem­ist plots and re­cruit­ment ef­forts in Europe over the past two years and had bragged of how he had avoided ar­rest. French po­lice said two sus­pected ji­hadists were killed, in­clud­ing a woman who blew her­self up, and five peo­ple were ar­rested dur­ing a shootout with po­lice in north Paris yes­ter­day in an op­er­a­tion aimed at Abaaoud.

Ab­baoud has in the past boasted of a close call he had when he passed through a Euro­pean check­point as po­lice stud­ied a photo of him. “The kuf­far (un­be­liev­ers) were blinded by Al­lah. I was even stopped by an of­fi­cer who con­tem­plated me so as to com­pare me to the pic­ture, but he let me go, as he did not see the re­sem­blance!,” Abaaoud told the Is­lamic State mag­a­zine Dabiq. “This was noth­ing but a gift from Al­lah,” said a bearded Abaaoud who ap­pears in an ac­com­pa­ny­ing photo hold­ing up a Holy Qu­ran in one hand and a black Is­lamic State flag in the other in front of a US-made Humvee. Other pic­tures show him crack­ing a wide smile, wear­ing a tur­ban-style scarf, woolen hat or mil­i­tary cap, as he poses with guns or along­side a com­rade.

‘A Lit­tle Jerk’

He also bragged about es­cap­ing from Europe af­ter Bel­gian po­lice shot dead two of his fel­low mil­i­tants as they broke up a cell plan­ning terror at­tacks on se­cu­rity per­son­nel ear­lier this year, af­ter which he hailed them as mar­tyrs. Mock­ing the “bloated im­age” of “cru­sader in­tel­li­gence”, he gloated: “My name and pic­ture were all over the news yet I was able to stay in their home­land, plan oper­a­tions against them, and leave safely when do­ing so be­came nec­es­sary.”

As early as last year Ab­del­hamid Abaaoud was al­ready known to se­cu­rity forces af­ter ap­pear­ing, laugh­ing, in an Is­lamic State video at the wheel of a car drag­ging mu­ti­lated bod­ies be­hind it. It was af­ter the break-up of that terror cell in the east­ern Bel­gian city of Verviers in Jan­uary, shortly af­ter the Char­lie Hebdo at­tacks in Paris, that Abaaoud’s name be­gan to widely cir­cu­late.

In Fe­bru­ary, Abaaoud, who was re­ported at one time to be in Greece, claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the plot against po­lice of­fi­cers and said he had joined the Is­lamic State group in Syria. Abaaoud - who hails from Molen­beek, a grimy Brussels dis­trict dubbed an ex­trem­ist “hot­bed” - was sen­tenced in ab­sen­tia to 20 years in prison in July for run­ning a net­work to re­cruit ji­hadists to Syria. Abaaoud then boasted in videos about plan­ning at­tacks in Europe.

Born in Molen­beek in 1987, he goes by the nom de guer­res Abou Omar Soussi, af­ter the name of the fam­ily home in south­west re­gion of Morocco, and Abou Omar Al-Baljiki, mean­ing Abou Omar the Bel­gian. “He was a lit­tle jerk,” re­called a for­mer class­mate from Brussels who told the Bel­gian news­pa­per La Derniere Heure that Abaaoud used to ha­rass fel­low pupils and teach­ers and also got into trou­ble for steal­ing wal­lets. Abaaoud ap­par­ently knows Salah Ab­deslam, who also has roots in Molen­beek and who is wanted for al­legedly tak­ing part in the Paris at­tacks, and has ap­peared in Bel­gian po­lice files linked to Ab­deslam’s brother Brahim, who po­lice say blew him­self up out­side a bar in Paris.

‘De­stroyed Our Lives’

Af­ter the cell in Verviers was smashed, the fa­ther of Ab­del­hamid Abaaoud said his son had wrecked their lives. In 2014, Abel­hamid con­vinced his younger brother Younes, then 13 years old, to join him in Syria and the boy was dubbed the “the world’s youngest ji­hadist” by some news­pa­pers. “Why in the name of God, would he want to kill in­no­cent Bel­gians? Our fam­ily owes ev­ery­thing to this coun­try,” Omar Abaaoud, whose fam­ily moved to Bel­gium 40 years ago from Morocco, said in Jan­uary af­ter the Verviers plot.

“Ab­del­hamid has brought shame on our fam­ily. Our lives have been de­stroyed... I never want to see him again,” the fa­ther of six from Molen­beek was quoted as say­ing by Bel­gian me­dia. He added: “We had a won­der­ful life, yes, even a fan­tas­tic life here. Ab­del­hamid was not a dif­fi­cult child and be­came a good businessman. But sud­denly he left for Syria. I won­dered ev­ery day how he be­came rad­i­cal­ized to this point. I never got an an­swer.” —AFP

An un­dated pic­ture from the Feb 2015 is­sue 7 of the Is­lamic State (IS) group on­line English-lan­guage mag­a­zine Dabiq shows 27-year-old lead­ing Bel­gian IS mil­i­tant Ab­del­hamid Abaaoud, also known as Abu Umar Al-Baljiki. —AFP

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