Paris, Brus­sels at­tacks ‘or­dered by top ISIL lead­ers’

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

THE cell that launched deadly at­tacks on Paris and Brus­sels had re­ceived its or­ders from “very high” in the Is­lamic State of Iraq and the Le­vant (ISIL) com­mand, ac­cord­ing to Bel­gium’s fed­eral prose­cu­tor.

Late last year a wave of bomb­ings and shoot­ings killed 130 peo­ple and injured hun­dreds more across the French cap­i­tal. And in March sui­cide blasts struck an air­port and a metro sta­tion in the Bel­gian cap­i­tal, leav­ing about 30 peo­ple dead.

“We know that the or­ders came from the Is­lamic State zone . . . We know that it went very high in the com­mand,” Fred­eric Van Leeuw said in an in­ter­view with the AFP news agency in Brus­sels on Wed­nes­day.

He could not say ex­actly who gave the or­ders or whether they sent them from a base in Syria or Iraq, the ter­ri­tory run by ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Bagh­dadi.

He said the com­mand moved around to dodge US-backed strikes. “Bagh­dadi was for a while in Mo­sul [in Iraq], some­times in Raqqa [in Syria],” he said.

“We don’t know at all who are the peo­ple who re­ally gave the or­ders.” ISIL, also known as ISIS, claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the at­tacks in Paris on Novem­ber 13 last year as well as for the blasts in Brus­sels on March 22.

Van Leeuw said the at­tacks were car­ried out by the same Franco-Bel­gian cell in which “the lo­gis­ti­cians in one case be­came the op­er­a­tional ones in the fol­low­ing case”.

With au­thor­i­ties still look­ing for sus­pects, he said: “The in­ves­ti­ga­tion is far from hav­ing ended, as much at the Bel­gian as at the French level.”

French sources said on Tues­day that French in­ves­ti­ga­tors had iden­ti­fied Ous­sama Atar, a Moroc­can- Bel­gian fighter based in Syria, as a “co­or­di­na­tor” of at­tacks in Paris and Brus­sels.

Van Leeuw said Atar’s sus­pected role “is one of the work­ing the­o­ries among oth­ers. There are a whole series of checks to be done”.

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.

Abou Ah­mad is sus­pected of hav­ing sent two sui­cide bombers to the na­tional sta­dium in Paris as well as another pair of po­ten­tial as­sailants, who were de­layed on their way to Paris and ar­rested in Aus­tria in December.

Af­ter be­ing ar­rested in Iraq in 2004 fol­low­ing the US-led in­va­sion of the coun­try, Atar spent time in var­i­ous jails in­clud­ing the no­to­ri­ous Abu Ghraib prison used by Amer­i­can forces.

Af­ter be­ing re­leased in 2012 he re­turned to Bel­gium be­fore ap­par­ently mak­ing his way back to the Mid­dle East but in­tel­li­gence ser­vices lost track of him months ago.

Asked why Atar had not been un­der sur­veil­lance, the prose­cu­tor said even the French, who had more man­power, could not mon­i­tor some­one round the clock.

“We must aban­don this idea that is pos­si­ble to fol­low peo­ple 24 hours a day . . . even when a le­gal case is opened,” he said.

Van Leuw said Bel­gium had made “enor­mous progress” in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the at­tacks.

“The goal is ef­fec­tively to un­der­stand and re­trace every­thing that hap­pened be­fore, to re­trace the en­tire chain of com­mand,” he said, adding that much po­lice work lay ahead. — Al Jazeera

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