MS Risk Blog

Police in Greece Tried to Capture Paris Attacks ‘Ringleader’

Posted on in Greece title_rule

Reports have surfaced that police in Greece tried to capture the suspected ringleader of the 13 November terror attacks in Paris, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, in January however the operation failed.

According to a Belgian anti-terrorism source, the Athens operation planned to target Abaaoud before anti-terror raids in Belgium, however that did not happen. Abaaoud, who died in a battle with French police just five days after the Paris attacks that killed 130 people, had been directing the Belgian cell by phone from Athens. According to a source, the Greek operation was supposed to have taken place before one that was carried out by security forces in Verviers, eastern Belgium, on 15 January. That raid saw an exchange of fire and resulted in the death of two suspected jihadists.

Greek authorities were on Abaaoud’s trail, believing that he was running the Belgian cell by mobile phone from Athens. Anti-terror sources have disclosed that a senior Belgian police officer was in Athens, where he was co-ordinating the hunt for Abaaoud with his Greek counterparts prior to the raid on the Verviers cell. While it remains unclear why or how Abaaoud was able to get away, there may have been an attempt to track him down to a city square by tracing the signal of his mobile phone, however that did not work. The Greek authorities are not confirming any details, and all that is known is that he was able to successfully get away. What else is known is that two days after the Veviers raids, Greek police carried out raids in Athens on 17 January. Earlier that day, Belgian media had reported that Greek authorities were searching for Abaaoud, a Brussels resident of Moroccan origin who was believed to be hiding in Greece. Greek police raided two flats in Athens. While one Algerian man was eventually extradited to Belgium, Abaaoud was not found. It is now known that traces of DNA recovered in both flats match samples that were recovered from Abaaoud’s body in Paris. A neighbour at one of the flats also reported seeing Abdelhamid Abaaoud in the street outside on at least two occasions.

Abdelhamid Abaaoud had been implicated in four out of six foiled attacks since this spring in France. However he is not the only link between Greece and the Paris attacks. Salah Abdeslam, who remains on the run, travelled to Greece by ferry from Italy on 1 August. He left three days later. Furthermore, two of the suicide bombers who attacked the Stade de France crossed by boat from Turkey to the island of Leros in October. They were posing as refugees.

Much of the information that has emerged about the operation in Athens ha raised questions about how to create a better exchange of information and close cooperation between anti-terrorism authorities in difference European countries.

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