Officials in France have identified Belgian extremist Abdelhamid Abaaoud as the most likely mastermind behind the recent terrorist attacks in Paris which killed at least 129 people. So far, more than 20 people have been arrested in anti-terrorism raids that have occurred across the country.
Authorities have also conducted raids in Belgium in search of alleged suspects. One suspect, Salah Abdeslam, is one of three French brothers living in Belgium who is believed to have played a key role in the attacks. Authorities have said that they are still searching for Salah Abdeslam for his immediate arrest. One of Abdeslam’s brothers, Brahim, is believed to have blown himself up in the attacks. His other brother, Mohamed, has already been arrested in Belgium.
In all, authorities believe that a total of 24 people were involved in the attacks. They say that five people planned the attacks, and 19 people actually conducted the destruction.
Details are currently emerging of a sophisticated international terrorist operation that is being conducted from Syria. The messages from Syria are then relayed to an individual in Belgium. This individual is likely Abaaoud, who is said to be one of the most active operatives of the Islamic State. It is highly probable that Abaaoud organized the attacks in Paris. Additionally, Abaaoud is also believed to be behind an attempted attack on a high-speed train that was traveling between Amsterdam and Brussels in August.
According to French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve, police conducted raids at 168 addresses across France. A total of 23 people were taken into custody, and 104 people were placed on immediate house arrest. The raids have been described as “preventative measures”. Also, state of emergency has already been declared in France.
Cazeneuve said, “It’s just a start, these operations are going to continue. The response of the Republic will be huge and total. He who targets the Republic will find the Republic will catch him, will be implacable.”
Meanwhile, authorities have acknowledged the possibility of more attacks in the coming days.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said, “We know that operations were being prepared, and are still being prepared, not only against France but other European countries too. France will live with the threat of new attacks for a long time to come.”
So far, prosecutors have not been able to identify all of the seven suicide bombers in the attacks. Three of the bombers conducted their attack at the Bataclan concert hall, causing the deaths of 89 people. One of these bombers has been identified as Samy Amimour, who was a 28 year old French national.
One suicide bomber who conducted his attack on the outside of the Stade de France Stadium carried a Syrian passport with the name Ahmad Almohammad, who was 25 years old and from the Syrian city of Idlib. Authorities have said that his fingerprints matched those of an individual who came through the Greek island of Leros in October.
Another suicide bomber has been identified as Bilal Hadfi. His nationality is unknown, but he is suspected of being Syrian. Brahim Abdeslam is also suspected of being a suicide bomber.
The attacks in Paris were the deadliest in Europe since the Madrid train bombings in 2004. More than 350 were injured, and 39 people are still in critical condition. The nation has responded with gatherings and moments of silence. The French Parliament is expected to have a critical discussion over the events on Monday.
On Sunday, France conducted its largest airstrike to date in Syria. The French targeted the critical ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, after the group claimed responsibility for the horrific events in Paris. More than 20 bombs were dropped on key ISIS infrastructure in Raqqa. According to Cazeneuve, this was in direct retaliation for the Paris attacks.