Tweeter

Paris attacks:
An unprecedented
investigation

Updated 25/11/2015 - 7.00 pm
On the evening of Friday, November 13, Paris was struck by an unprecedented series of terrorist attacks claimed by the Islamic State group (also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh). At least 130 people died and dozens more remain in a critical condition after the attacks, which officials said were carried out by three teams of terrorists.

The fugitive

Salah Abdeslam (on the run), the younger brother of fellow attacker, Brahim Abdeslam became Europe’s most-wanted fugitive in the wake of the attacks. His exact role in the killings is still unclear, though he is believed to have driven the three Stade de France bombers to their destination.

Abdeslam is known to have rented the grey Polo car used by the attackers at the Bataclan, according to investigators, as well as a Renault Clio found abandoned in the 18th arrondissement (district) of Paris after the attacks. He also booked the hotel rooms used before the attacks.

Doubts persist over what Abdeslam’s precise mission was on the evening of the attacks. One possibility is that he had meant to carry out an attack in the 18th arrondissement, which was mentioned in the Islamic State group’s claim of responsibility, but never occurred.

An explosive belt was also found in Montrouge, south of Paris, near where Abdeslam was known to be shortly after the attacks.

Investigators know that Salah, 26, who also lived in Molenbeek, was stopped in the northeastern French town of Cambrai on his way to Belgium on Saturday morning. He was released by police because he had not yet been identified by French authorities as someone with links to the attacks. Belgian police found the car he is suspected of using to cross the border in Molenbeek on the afternoon of November 14.




The Belgian connection

Several individuals in Belgium are currently facing charges in connection with the Paris attacks, although the main suspect, Salah Abdeslam, remains at large.

Those facing charges include Mohammed Amri and Hamza Attou, who have admitted driving from Brussels to Paris to fetch Abdeslam hours after Abdeslam’s brother had blown himself up during the attacks. They deny any knowledge of Abdeslam’s involvement in the Paris attacks.

The Belgian state prosecutor said another suspect, a French citizen named as Ali Oulkadi, 31, who lived in the Molenbeek district of Brussels, had picked Abdeslam up in a car after Amri and Attou brought him back to Brussels on November 14.

Abraimi Lazez, a 39-year-old Moroccan resident of Brussels, has also been charged over his alleged connections to Abdeslam. Police suspect him of helping the fugitive once he returned to Brussels and found two handguns and traces of blood in his car. Lazez denies being in contact with Abdeslam and claims to know him “only by sight”.

Belgium has issued an international arrest warrant for another suspect, 30-year-old Brussels resident Mohamed Abrini, whom prosecutors said was filmed with Abdeslam at a petrol station in northern France two days before the attacks.

Abrini was driving the Renault Clio car that was later used by the attackers in the French capital. A “wanted” poster described Abrini as “dangerous and probably armed”.

On November 24, a fifth unidentified person was charged, according to the prosecutor. Belgian media have named him as Abdeilah Chouaa, though his links to the attacks remain unknown. Two other people arrested a day earlier have been released.

A sixth suspect, named by Belgian media as Mohamed Bakkali, is believed to be the owner of a home in the southern town of Auvelais that had served as a hideout until it was raided on November 26. Bakkali was charged the following day "with terrorist murder and with participating in the activities of a terrorist group".

Two others, Samir Z. and Pierre N., were arrested on November 29 at Brussels Airport and the town of Molenbeek-Saint-Jean respectively. They were both charged with "participation in a terrorist group" and were remanded in custody, said the federal prosecutor.

Samir Z., a Frenchman born in 1995 who lives in Molenbeek, is suspected of having tried to go to Syria at least twice in 2015 and is believed to be part of the group of Bilal Hadfi – one of the suicide bombers who blew himself up at the Stade de France on November 13, said the prosecutor.




Police siege in Saint-Denis

French police and SWAT teams carried out an intense raid in the northern Parisian suburb of Saint-Denis early morning on Wednesday, November 18, targeting Abdelhamid Abaaoud, one of the alleged organisers of the Paris attacks on Friday. three suspects were killed and eight others arrested as a result of the assault, which lasted seven hours and required more than 5,000 rounds of ammunition.
At 4:20am The raid begins at an apartment building on 8 rue Corbillon, where multiple individuals holed themselves up before opening fire on the security forces. Soon after the first barrage of bullets, a woman detonates an explosives vest she is wearing, killing herself.
At 7:58am The assault continues. Fifty military reinforcements arrive. In total, 110 police officers and soldiers, as well as multiple helicopters, are deployed for the operation. Gunfire exchanges around 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. are particularly intense. Assault forces unload more than 5,000 rounds of ammunition before the operation eventually ends.
At 9:17am While the surrounding zone is secured by police, the Paris prosecutor’s office announces that five people were placed in custody. Three suspects were seized in the apartment, while two others were located in the ruins of the partially collapsed building, the prosecutor says.
At 11:26am The assault is officially over. Federal prosecutor François Molins announces that eight people were arrested in total, with two killed, during the assault. One of the bodies has been identified as belonging to Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the alleged ringleader of the Paris attacks, the other is that of his cousin, Hasna Aït Boulahcen. The third victim has not yet been formally identified.





Suspected coordinator

Abdelhamid Abaaoud, nicknamed Abu Omar "the Belgian", was the alleged organiser of the Paris attacks.

Abaaoud, who was killed in a police raid on an apartment in the northern Paris suburb of Saint-Denis on November 18, was planning to attack Paris’s La Défense business centre on either November 18 or November 19, Paris Prosecutor François Molins said on November 24. Investigators are convinced Abaaoud returned to the Bataclan concert hall just a few hours after the coordinated November 13 attacks while police were still raiding the venue.

Police investigators have established that he was also part of the group that fired on the bars in the 10th and 11th arrondissements (districts of Paris. Originally from the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek, the Belgian national is suspected of coordinating the November 13 bloodshed. Active on social networks between 2013 and 2014, Abaaoud was close to the fugitive Salah Abdeslam, with whom he was incarcerated in a Belgian jail on a robbery conviction in 2010.

Abaaoud’s fingerprints were found on a Kalashnikov discovered in a SEAT car rented by Salah Abdeslam’s brother, Brahim Abdeslam, that was used in the attacks and later recovered in the Paris suburb of Montreuil. Abaaoud was also caught by a video surveillance camera at around 10pm on November 13 at the Montreuil metro station, close to where the car was abandoned.

Why the weapons were left in the car, particularly if Abaaoud was planning further attacks, remains one of the unanswered questions of the investigation.

The 28-year-old was well known to security services, having travelled to Syria in 2013 and suspected of having links to several recent terror cases in France and Belgium. He is thought to have played a role in the failed Thalys attack last August. He was also in contact with French national Mehdi Nemmouche, who carried out the deadly shooting at the Jewish Museum in Brussels in May 2014. He is also considered the chief organiser behind a terrorist cell in the eastern Belgian city of Verviers, which was dismantled a week after January’s attack against French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.





The ‘voice’ of the Islamic State group

French national Fabien Clain was identified on Tuesday, November 17, as “very probably” the man who read a statement claiming responsibility for the attacks in Paris on behalf of the Islamic State group.
Clain, who is originally from France’s Reunion Island, was close to Mohamed Merah, the self-styled jihadist behind the 2012 shootings in the southern French cities of Toulouse and Montauban. Clain is also suspected of having been behind a failed attack on a church in the southern Paris suburb of Villejuif in 2014.
The 36-year-old joined Islamic State group forces in Syria after being released from prison last year. He was sentenced to a year in jail for leading a network that helped aspiring jihadists reach Iraq and is considered one of France’s veteran jihadists. Clain was a part of the Islamist community in Artigat, a small village in southern France, which is believed to have been a hotbed of Islamic extremism in the country.

Clain’s mentor at the time, Oliver Corel – a Frenchman of Syrian origin -- was given a six-month suspended sentence on November 25 for possession of an unlicensed hunting rifle. Dubbed the “White Emir”, Corel, 69, is also believed to have mentored Mohammed Merah, who carried out the killings in Toulouse and Montauban in 2012.




Attackers at the Bataclan



At 9:49pm on Friday, November 13, a grey Volkswagen Polo car stopped at the Bataclan music venue. Three men got out, entered the Paris concert hall and shot at the crowd, killing dozens of people.
Samy Amimour (killed). This 28-year-old Parisian, originally from the northern suburb of Drancy, has been officially identified as one of the suicide bombers at the Bataclan.
Amimour was put under formal investigation in 2012 for conspiracy in connection with a terrorist group following a failed attempt to travel to Yemen, according to Paris prosecutor François Molins.
Since autumn 2013 he has been the subject of an international arrest warrant for violating the terms of his probation.
In 2014 he went to join the jihad in Syria and then returned to France, unknown to the authorities, French magazine Le Point reported.

Ismael Omar Mostefai (killed). Mostefai was the first of the Bataclan attackers to have been identified, thanks to a finger recovered at the scene of the crime.
The 29-year-old had been flagged by French intelligence services in 2010 as a potential threat to “the security of the state” after becoming radicalised.
Mostefai lived in the northern city of Chartres "until at least 2012", according to the local deputy mayor, Jean-Pierre Gorges. Between 2004 and 2010, he was convicted eight times for petty crimes (theft, driving without a permit and assault) but never for acts related to terrorism and he was never sent to prison.
A native of Courcouronnes, just south of Paris, Mostefai visited Syria in the autumn of 2013, according to Le Monde.




Attackers at the Stade de France

At 9:20pm, a first suicide bomber activated his explosives belt near the D door of the Stade de France, where France and Germany were playing a friendly football match in the presence of French President François Hollande. Ten minutes later, a second attacker blew himself up near the stadium’s H door. At 9:53pm, a third terrorist did the same 400 metres from the stadium near a restaurant.

Bilal Hadfi (killed). The 20-year-old Frenchman failed to enter the stadium and blew himself up outside. Hadfi, who lived in Neder-over-Heembeek, a suburb of Brussels, was formally identified on Sunday. The Flemish newspaper "Het Laatste Nieuws" said that he could have been radicalised starting in the spring of 2014. He is also believed to have travelled to Syria, according to the Washington Post newspaper and several Belgian media outlets.


Unidentified man with a false Syrian passport (killed).
It remains unknown whether Ahmad al-Mohammad, a 25-year-old Syrian, was one of the suicide bombers at the Stade de France. A fraudulent Syrian passport found beside the body of one of the assailants was in Mohammad’s name.

The authenticity of the document, however, was questioned by Justice Minister Christiane Taubira on Sunday, November 15. Paris prosecutor François Molins has also stated that the passport "remains to be verified" but said there was a connection between the “fingerprints of the bomber and those found during an inspection in Greece in October 2015".

Mohammad was processed by Greek authorities on the island of Leros on October 3. He then traveled to Serbia where he applied for asylum before going to Hungary, where the authorities seem to have lost track of him.

Unidentified assailant (killed).




Attackers in the 10th and 11th arrondissements (districts of Paris)

At 9:20pm, three gunmen opened fire on Le Carillon bar and Le Petit Cambodge restaurant in the 10th arrondissement, killing 14 people. Ten minutes later, gunfire struck the Casa Nostra pizzeria and La Bonne Bière bar in the 11th arrondissement, killing five people. Ten customers at La Belle Equipe café, also in the 11th arrondissement, died in a shooting at 9:40pm.


Five minutes later, Brahim Abdeslam (killed), a 31-year Frenchman and a resident of the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek, blew himself up in front of the brasserie Comptoir Voltaire in the 11th arrondissement of Paris at 9:43pm, wounding several. The SEAT car that was used to carry out the attacks in the 10th and 11th arrondissements was rented under his name. Brahim Abdeslam was the older brother of Salah Abdeslam, who is still on the run.

Salah Abdeslam (on the run). The younger brother of Brahim Abdeslam became Europe’s most-wanted fugitive in the wake of Friday's attacks. His exact role in the killings is still unclear. Salah Abdeslam rented the grey Polo car used by the attackers at the Bataclan, according to investigators.

Investigators know that Salah, 26, who also lived in Molenbeek, was stopped in the northeastern French town of Cambrai on his way to Belgium on Saturday morning. He was released by police because he had not yet been identified by French authorities as someone with links to the attacks. Belgian police found the car he is suspected of using to cross the border in Molenbeek on Saturday afternoon.

Abdelhamid Abaaoud (killed). The alleged ringleader of the attacks was also a member of the group who launched attacks in the 10th and 11th arrondissements of Paris. "He was even one of the two shooters in the squad, which also included Brahim Abdeslam, who blew himself up at the cafe Voltaire Counter later," says France 24 journalist, Christophe Dansette.
Abaaoud is suspected of having planned to carry out another attack at the La Défense business district in Paris, but was killed by police during the November 18 raid in Saint-Denis.

Unidentified assailant (killed). The third gunman in the attacks on the 10th and 11th arrondissements is yet to be identified. He may be the same man that died alongside Abaaoud in the Saint-Denis raid.



The bomb-maker

Discovering the identity of the bomb-maker, who manufactured the explosives with which the suicide bombers were armed, is one of the priorities for investigators. The extreme instability of the explosive used by the terrorists – TAPT (triacetone triperoxyde) – suggests that the mixture was not transported over a long distance, but manufactured on French soil. The bomb-maker is probably still alive because those with such skills are highly valued by terrorist organizations, being key to any planned attack.




Crédits

By Sebastian SEIBT for France 24
Adapted by Rachel Holman
Design, graphics and development: Studio Graphique France Médias Monde