French name Paris attacks plotter
FRENCH investigators have identified a Moroccan-Belgian jihadist based in Syria as a key plotter of attacks in Paris and Brussels, sources said, announcing a breakthrough in their multicountry probe.
Oussama Atar, a 32-year-old believed to be a member of the Islamic State group, was already a suspect in the March 22 attacks on Brussels but has now been linked to the November 13 atrocities in Paris last year.
Police have long suspected that the assault on the French capital, in which teams of jihadists killed 130 people, was coordinated by one or several people from Syria, but have never previously named anyone.
Mr Atar, believed to go by the pseudonym “Abou Ahmad” in Syria, has been on the radar of European security forces for more than a decade.
After being arrested in Iraq in 2004, he spent time in various jails including the notorious Abu Ghraib prison used by American forces.
After being released, in 2012 he returned to Belgium, whose intelligence and police forces have faced fierce criticism about the development of jihadist networks in Brussels.
His name resurfaced publicly again following suicide bombings of Brussels’ airport and metro system in March which left 32 people dead.
He is a cousin of two of the attackers, the El Bakraoui brothers Khalid and Ibrahim, who took up the cause of Islamic State after years of violent crime in Brussels.
He also has family ties to Moustapha and Jawad Benhattal, who were arrested on June 18 on suspicion of planning an attack in Belgium during a screening of a Euro 2016 football match, Belgian media had reported.
French investigators were able to link him to the Paris attacks following the arrests of two suspected extremists, an Algerian and a Pakistani, detained in Austria last year. –