The alleged mastermind of the Paris attacks that killed at least 129 people has been named as the leader of an Islamic State cell who was sought by police earlier this year but remains at large.
French officials said Abdelhamid Abaaoud, 27, was instrumental in organising and executing the gun and suicide bomb attacks on Friday night that wrought devastation in central Paris, AFP reported.
Abaaoud, who is believed to be a Belgian of Moroccan origin, was first named by police as a wanted extremist after a gun battle in eastern Belgium in January during a raid on an Isis cell.
That security operation was believed to have destroyed a cell plotting to assassinate Belgian police officers, killing two suspects in a fierce gun battle with police during the raid in the eastern town of Verviers.
Abaaoud, the group’s suspected leader, spent time fighting alongside Isis in Syria. He was known to security forces after appearing in an Isis video, at the wheel of a car transporting mutilated bodies to a mass grave.
He was described as on the run after the attack and has now been named as a leader in the Paris attacks. Koen Geens, the Belgian justice minister, said in January: “Last night’s arrests did not succeed in nabbing the right person. We are still actively looking for him and I presume we will succeed.”
Abaaoud was also linked by French officials to the thwarted attacks on a Paris-bound high-speed train in August and a foiled plot to attack a church in Paris in April. French newspaper Liberation also linked him to Sid Ahmed Ghlam, a French student charged with murder, attempted murder and terror offences.