Paris 13 November Terror Attacks: Who Were The Attackers?December 22, 2015 in France
French officials investigating the deadly 13 November terror attack in Paris have identified most of the people they believe to have carried out the assaults, which were claimed by the so-called Islamic State (IS) group.
While the attacks are suspected to have been masterminded by Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who was killed in a police raid in Saint-Denis a few days later, two suspects remain on the run.
Bar and Restaurant Attackers
Authorities have identified Abdeslam, a 26-year-old French national born in Brussels, as a key suspect and has been the subject of a massive police manhunt in Belgium and beyond. He has been described as dangerous, with police officials warning the public not to approach him. While his current whereabouts remain unknown, reports have surfaced that despite heightened security, he may have managed to leave Europe for Syria. These reports however have not been confirmed.
Abdeslam is believed to have rented a VW Polo car in Belgium, which was later found near the Bataclan concert hall. However he also rented a Renault Clio and reserved two hotel room just outside Paris before the attacks. While his precise role in the attacks themselves remains unclear, his brother, Brahim, blew himself up. Investigators do believe that Salah Abdeslam may have driven the three Stade de France bombes to their destination and may have been given the job of an attack a short distance south, in the 18th district in Paris. That attack however never occurred. Hours after the 13 November attacks, Salah Abdeslam was in a vehicle with two other men near the Belgian border when they were stopped at least once by police. They were allowed to drive on after checks. It remains unclear whether French authorities had matched his name to the car found at the Bataclan by the time he was stopped. As the search for Salah Abdeslam intensified across Belgium, Brussels was placed on lockdown, and his brother, Mohamed, who was briefly detained by the authorities, later appealed for him to give himself up.
Salah Abdeslam has a past of petty crime, with Belgian prosecutors stating that they had questioned him and his brother Brahim earlier this year. Some reports have indicated that he spent time in prison for robbery, where he met suspected ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud. He had earlier been dismissed as a technician on the Brussels tram system for missing work. Dutch police have also disclosed that they had detained Salah Abdeslam briefly in February, fining him £49 for possession of cannabis.
At the end of last month, Moroccan authorities issued an arrest warrant for Salah Abdeslam. According to a Moroccan security source, it remains unclear whether Salah Abdeslam had fled to Morocco or North Africa. German police launched a search after a tip-off that he was there.
Brahim Abdeslam is the brother of Salah Abdeslam. According to French investigators, Brahim died after he set off his explosives-laden suicide belt near a Parisian café on Boulevard Voltaire.
The 31-year-old had rented a Seat car, which was found the day after the attacks at Montreuil, which is located to the east of Paris. He had earlier appeared in several Belgian police files alongside Abdelhamid Abaaoud. The documents relate to criminal cases in 2010 and 2011. According to Belgium’s De Standaard newspaper, “investigators see a link with Verviers,” referring to a Belgian town where police shot dead two militants in January and broke up a a cell that was aiming to kill Belgian police offices. That raid occurred just days after the January Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris. Belgian judicial officials have also disclosed that earlier this year, Brahim Abdeslam had travelled to Turkey intending to go on to Syria however he was deported back to Brussels by Turkish authorities. Sources have indicated that while he was questioned on his return to Belgium, he was later released.
Both Brahim Abdeslam and Abaaoud lived in Molenbeek, which is a district of Brussels that has a substantial Muslim population. Some Belgian authorities have described the district as a “breeding ground for jihadists.”
Abaaoud, 28, has been described by the authorities as the suspected ringleader of the attacks. He died on 18 November in a long gun battle with police, who raided a flat in the northern Paris suburb of Saint-Denis. Investigators believe that he was involved in the bar and restaurant killings as his fingerprints were found on a Kalashnikov that was left in the Seat car that was abandoned in Montreuil.
Abaaoud grew up in the Brussels district of Molenbeek and was an associate of Salah Abdeslam. He has been implicated in four out of six attacks that have been foiled this year and is believed to have joined IS in 2013. Belgian police believe that he had been in Athens, directing a militant cell in Verviers in eastern Belgium when it was raided by security forces in mid-January. While Greek authorities had been following him, he managed to evade a police raid. Sources have reported that Abaaoud had also been in contact with Mehdi Nemmouche, who is accused of shooting dead four people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels in May 2014. According to lawyer Nathalie Gallant, Abaaoud’s father had become aware in the past month of his son’s links to terrorism and he believed that he had become a psychopath.
Officials have not yet identified the third attacker. Furthermore, it remains unclear whether he escaped or later died in the police raid on the Saint-Denis flat.
Bataclan Concert Hall Attackers
Omar Ismail Mostefai
Just eight days before his 30th birthday, the French national of Algerian descent blew himself up after the massacre at the Bataclan. He was later identified from a finger-tip that was found in the concert hall.
Omar Mostefai was born in the Parisian suburb of Courcouronnes. He was known to police as a petty criminal. Between 2004 and 2010, he received eight convictions however he never spent any time in prison. Between 2005 and 2012, he lived in Chartres, near Paris, where he reportedly worked as a baker and played football with fellow employees. He attended a mosque with his father. While a local Islamic association leader has disclosed that he never showed any signs of being an extremist, with several residents reporting that the family was “very nice,” in 2010, French authorities identified him as a suspected Islamic radical, with his details entered in a database.
Despite his name in a database, Omar Mostefai appears to have been able to travel to Syria and he may have also spent time in Algeria. A senior Turkish official has confirmed that Omar Mostefai entered Turkey in 2013, adding that there was no record of him leaving the country. According to the official, in October 2014, Turkey had received an information request from French authorities pertaining to four terror suspects. During the official investigation, Turkish authorities identified a fifth individual, Omar Mostefai, and notified their French counterparts twice – in December 2014 and June 2015. The official disclosed that “we have, however, not heard back from France on the matter,” adding that it was only after the Paris attacks that the Turkish authorities received an information request about Omar Ismail Mostefai from France.
The 28-year-old Frenchman was another of the suicide bombes who blew himself up at the Bataclan.
He lived in the northeastern Paris suburb of Drancy and had been known to French intelligence services. In 2012, he was charged with terror offences over claims that he had planned to go to Yemen. While he was placed under judicial supervision, he later dropped off the radar, which prompted the authorities to issue an international arrest warrant. In 2014, Le Monde newspaper published an account of the journey of a 67-year-old Parisian man to Syria, in the hope of persuading his son to leave IS and return to France. While Pseudonyms were used in the original article, it has since been updated to reveal that the son in question was Amimour. With his son refusing to leave, the father later returned home without him. French media have since pointed out that Amimour was able to enter France prior to the attacks. He entered undetected despite the arrest warrant. Three of Amimour’s relatives were reportedly arrested shortly after the Paris attacks.
It took French authorities more than three weeks in order to identify the third Bataclan bomber. DNA from Foued Mohamed-Aggad’s Moroccan-born mother in Strasbourg was used in order to confirm his role in the concert hall massacre.
French media have reported that the 23-year-old was initially lured to Syria by one of France’s most infamous jihadist recruiters, Mourad Fares. Sources have disclosed that he went to Syria with his older brother Karim at the end of 2013. Eight other young men from the Meinau district of Strasbourg also went with them, however seven of the group returned from Syria within two months when two of them were killed. Only Foued Mohamed-Aggad remained, until he eventually came home to take part in the Paris attacks.
Stade de France
This man was the first of three to blow himself up at the Stade de France stadium. A Syrian passport, which bore his name, was found at the scene. While the passport suggests that he was a 25-year-old from the Syrian city of Idlib, authorities believe that this passport is a fake. A report in a Serbian newspaper, Blic, has said that a passport bearing the same name and data, however a different image, had been found on another migrant, suggesting that both men had bought fake documents from the same counterfeiter.
The Paris prosecutor’s office has disclosed that fingerprints from the dead attacker matched those of a person who came to Europe with migrants via the Greek Island of Leros. The man may have been posing as a Syrian refugee. Records from Leros suggest that he arrived on 3 October and was fingerprinted and photographed. An official in Leros has since disclosed that he remembers the man arriving, stating that something did not feel right about him and that he kept himself to himself. The official further indicated that he would have highlighted his concerns to an intelligence officer, had one been there. Leros authorities have indicated that they simply do not have the resources in order to screen all the migrants effectively, or even to check whether their passports are genuine.
Authorities have named the 20-year-old as one of the attackers who died at the Stade de France. According to officials he tried to get into the stadium while France was playing a friendly match against Germany, however he was denied entry and blew himself up in the nearby rue de la Cokerie.
He was a French national who had been living at Neder-over-Hembeek in Belgium. Belgian media have reported that he was radicalized in early 2014. Belgian prosecutors have also disclosed that while they were aware that he had gone to fight with IS in Syria, they did not know that he had returned.
A picture of the third suicide bomber at the Stade de France has been issued by French police. He has been named by media as M al-Mahmod. He blew himself up in front of one of the entrances to the stadium, on rue Rimet.
According to officials, he entered the Greek Island of Leros on 3 October and was travelling with Ahmad al-Mohammed. While French police have not yet named him, sources have disclosed that image released by the authorities matches a photo on arrival papers at Leros, adding that the two men purchased ferry tickets to leave Leros to continue their journey through Europe with other Syrian refugees.
Hasna Aitboulahcen, a cousin of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, died with him in the gun battle that occurred at the Saint-Denis flat. Another man, who has yet to be identified, blew himself up at the flat.
Aitboulachen, the daughter of Moroccan immigrants, was tracked by French police who had tapped her phone after the 13 November attacks. According to sources, she was seen leading Abaaoud into the flat just hours before the police raid occurred. She had been radicalized only in recent months and was thought to have had a brief conversation with police before she died.
While initial reports indicated that she had blown herself up, police later disclosed that it was a man that had done so. While he has not been identified, there have been suggestions that he may have taken part in the attacks on bars and restaurants in the 10th and 11th districts of Paris alongside Abaaoud and Brahim Abdeslam.
Jawan Bendaoud, 29, was arrested during the Saint-Denis raid. He is said to have rented the flat to Abaaoud and Hasa Aitboulahcen. He told French media before he was questioned by police that a friend had asked him to look after “two mates who wer coming from Belgium.” He further stated that “I said there was no mattress but they told me its not a big deal. They just wanted water and to pray.” A girlfriend, Hayet, who was with Jawan Bendaoud on the night of the Paris attacks, has since disclosed that he suddenly realized that he was in trouble. What occurred in the days prior to the raid on Saint-Denis remains unclear however Hayet believes that her friend had seen the state of the flat and was “aware of what was going on.” Bendaoud has been in trouble with the police in the past and has served time in prison.
Mohammed Amri, 27, and Hamza Attouh, 21, were arrested in Belgium. They later admitted to picking up Salah Abdeslam in France and driving him back to Brussels in a Volkswagen Golf. Accoridng to officials, the pair received a phone call from Salah Abdeslam at 0500 on Saturday, stating that his car had broken down. While they insisted that no mention was made of the attacks, which had been carried out in Paris just a few hours earlier, Hamza Attouh stated that he was wearing thick clothing and may have been preparing to blow himself up. They also provided conflicting versions of where in Brussels they had dropped Salah Abdeslam off.
Abraimi Lazez, 39, was arrested in the Belgian town of Laeken, in a car where two guns and traces of blood were found. He has been suspected of helping Salah Abdeslam flee France in the hours after the attacks.
A French national, who has been named by police as Ali O, has been accused by Belgian authorities of taking part in the actions of a terrorist group and a terrorist attack. Police believe he may also have driven Salah at one point.
Two days prior to the 13 November attacks, Salah was spotted in the Renault Clio, which was used to drop off the Stade de France attackers. He was spotted with another suspect.
Belgian police have disclosed that they are now also hunting Mohamed Abrini, 29, who was driving the car with Salah Abdeslam as a passenger when it stopped at a petrol station in Ressons, which is located on the motorway to Paris.
Ahmad Dahmani, a 26-year-old Belgian national, is being held in Turkey after he flew to the resort of Antalya. He is suspected of being involved in preparations for the Paris attacks.