Paris at­tacks master­mind seen on CCTV

Clearly spot­ted dur­ing as­saults

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - WORLD - LEIGH THOMAS and GERARD BON

PARIS: The man sus­pected of be­ing the master­mind be­hind last Fri­day’s at­tacks in the French cap­i­tal was seen on CCTV footage recorded at a metro sta­tion while the mas­sacre that killed 130 peo­ple was still un­der way, a po­lice source has said.

Ab­del­hamid Abaaoud was killed in a gun bat­tle on Wed­nes­day when po­lice raided a house in a Paris sub­urb where he was holed up.

Pros­e­cu­tors said three peo­ple were killed in the op­er­a­tion that lasted seven hours.

Abaaoud can be seen on closed-cir­cuit TV footage at the Croix de Chavaux metro sta­tion in Mon­treuil, not far from where one of the cars used in the at­tacks was found, a po­lice source said yes­ter­day.

He was spot­ted on the tape at 10.14pm last Fri­day evening af­ter shoot­ings at sev­eral cafes and sui­cide bomb­ings near a packed soc­cer sta­dium had taken place, but while an at­tack was still un­der way at a con­cert hall.

A petty crim­i­nal who went to fight in Syria in 2013, Abaaoud is be­lieved to have re­cruited sim­i­lar young men from im­mi­grant fam­i­lies in his na­tive Brus­sels district of Molen­beek and else­where in Bel­gium and France.

Be­fore the at­tacks, Euro­pean gov­ern­ments thought he was still in Syria.

Abaaoud’s man­gled body was iden­ti­fied on Thurs­day. A woman’s body was iden­ti­fied as that of Hasna Ait­boulah­cen.

Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of a third body is still in progress.

In the de­bris, a hand­bag was found con­tain­ing a pass­port in the name of Ait­boulah­cen. A source said pre­vi­ously that a woman with that name may have blown her­self up dur­ing the raid and may be a cousin of Abaaoud.

Moroc­can- born Abaaoud, 28, was ac­cused of or­ches­trat­ing last Fri­day’s at­tacks. Seven as­sailants died in the at­tacks and a sus­pected eighth is still on the run.

Even be­fore the at­tacks, Abaaoud was one of the Is­lamic State’s high­est- pro­file Euro­pean re­cruits, ap­pear­ing in the group’s on­line English- lan­guage mag­a­zine Dabiq, where he boasted of cross­ing Euro­pean bor­ders to stage at­tacks.

The group, which con­trols swathes of Iraq and Syria, has at­tracted thou­sands of young Euro­peans and Abaaoud was seen as a lead­ing fig­ure in lur­ing oth­ers to join, par­tic­u­larly from Bel­gium.

He claimed to have es­caped a con­ti­nent- wide man­hunt af­ter a po­lice raid in Bel­gium in 2013 in which two other mil­i­tants were killed.

His fam­ily has dis­owned him, ac­cus­ing him of ab­duct­ing his 13-year-old brother, who was later pro­moted on the in­ter­net as the IS’s youngest for­eign fighter in Syria.

While quickly track­ing him down will be seen as a ma­jor suc­cess for French au­thor­i­ties, his pres­ence in Paris will fo­cus more at­ten­tion on the dif­fi­culty Euro­pean se­cu­rity ser­vices have in mon­i­tor­ing the con­ti­nent’s bor­ders.

Europe’s in­te­rior min­is­ters were meet­ing yes­ter­day and were ex­pected to tighten se­cu­rity mea­sures and ex­ter­nal bor­der checks.

France has called for changes to the func­tion­ing of the EU’s Schen­gen bor­der-free travel zone, which nor­mally does not mon­i­tor the en­try and exit of cit­i­zens of its 26 coun­tries.

Hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple have reached Europe as Syr­ian refugees in re­cent months, in­clud­ing at least one per­son us­ing a pass­port found at the scene of Fri­day’s at­tacks.

The French Na­tional As­sem­bly voted to ex­tend the state of emer­gency for three months on Thurs­day.

France has called for a global coali­tion to de­feat the IS and has launched air strikes on Raqqa, the de-facto IS cap­i­tal in Syria, since the week­end.

Rus­sia has also tar­geted the city in ret­ri­bu­tion for the down­ing of a Rus­sian air­liner last month that killed 224 peo­ple. – Reuters

PIC­TURE: REUTERS

SCRU­TINY: French po­lice con­duct checks at the French-Ger­man bor­der at Stras­bourg, France, to ver­ify the iden­tity of trav­ellers yes­ter­day as se­cu­rity in­creased af­ter last Fri­day’s at­tacks in Paris.

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