His name is Abdelhamid Abaaoud and he was the goal of the night-time blitz at the hands of Raid, the French SWAT team, that has besieged the district of Saint Denis in Paris at dawn. He is a 27-year-old Belgian of Moroccan descent. The young man had been part of the Verviers jihadist cell, eradicated in January. During the last two years, his presence has been constantly signaled in Syria, where he has quickly climbed ISIS hierarchies. The latter has entrusted him with the task of training jihadists who plan attacks in Europe.
His long black beard covers the face, he is lean, and well known in the Raqqa region – the stronghold of the self-styled Islamic State – due to a video in which he appeared driving a 4×4 that was dragging several bodies. He was a friend of Salah Abdeslam, one of the Paris attackers on the run, and who granted last February a long interview to Dabiq, ISIS’ magazine, under his battle name Abu Umar To Baljiki (the Belgian), telling how he managed to avoid the controls of the Belgian police for several times.
According to various sources, Abaaoud was in in touch with Ayoub El-Khazzani, the author of the 21 August attack on the Thalys Amsterdam-Paris train. Other sources affirm he was in touch with Sid Ahmed Ghlam, an Algerian student who was planning attacks on the Villejuif (Val-de-Marne) churches in April. It is almost certain that the man knew Mehdi Nemmouche (whose short name was Molenbeek), author of the Brussels Jewish museum massacre which took place on May 2014.
According to M6, the French police collected an interesting testimony about the man. On the basis of information provided by a Spanish jihadist, Reda H., stopped on his way back from Syria in August. The man revealed he had been trained to commit attacks in France, under Abdelhamid Abaaoud’s guidance. Wounded during the training, Reda H. came back to Europe to attack a theater. To accomplish this task, Abaaoud seems to have entrusted to Reda H. an encrypted USB key and two thousand euros in cash.