Mastermind of Paris Attacks Linked to Four Other Terror Plots

The alleged architect of Friday's terror attack in Paris was killed in a police raid Wednesday.

This undated image taken from a Militant Website on Monday Nov. 16, 2015 showing Belgian Abdelhamid Abaaoud. A French official says Abdelhamid Abaaoud is the suspected mastermind of the Paris attacks was also linked to thwarted train and church attacks.
AP

French authorities said Thursday that the suspected mastermind of Friday's attacks in Paris may have been involved in four other terror plots foiled by police this year.

French officials confirmed Thursday that Abdelhamid Abaaoud, 28, a Belgian of Moroccan origin, died Wednesday along with his cousin in a police raid on an apartment building in Saint Denis, a suburb of Paris.

Abaaoud was a prominent member of ISIS and the suspected mastermind of a foiled plot to kill police officers in Belgium in January.

French police had also linked him to several attacks thwarted in France this year, Cazeneuve said.

These include a plot in April to attack Christian churches in the Paris suburb of Villejuif. Furthermore, investigators are still assessing if Abaaoud was involved with a foiled shooting on a Thalys high-speed train in August.

In August, French authorities detained a suspected jihadist who declared that he was trained by Abaaoud and instructed to carry out a violent act in France or in another European country, Cazeneuve said.

"Among the six attacks that have been prevented or foiled by the French intelligence services since spring 2015, Abaaoud appears to be involved in four of them," the minister added.

Abaaoud had been in Syria since 2014, the subject of an international arrest warrant. It was not immediately clear on Thursday how he managed to make his way to France unnoticed by security services.

French authorities were informed on Monday by "an intelligence service from a country outside Europe" that it had been informed of Abaaoud's presence in Greece, Cazeneuve said. The information came from Morocco, some media outlets reported.

A Greek interior minister later responded to Cazeneuve's claims, saying they had no evidence Abaaoud had traveled through Greece. 

Cazeneuve called on Europe to act more forcefully against terrorism, saying that the continent has to move "quickly and strongly," keeping in mind terrorism victims and their families.

France started on Thursday to legislate on a raft of measures that it has promised to take after Friday's wave of shootings and bombings in Paris, which left at least 129 people dead and 352 injured.

Parliament gave its approval to a package of new laws that paves the way for the country's state of emergency to be extended by three months until late February and for actions against terror suspects to be stepped up. The measures will now go to the Senate for approval.

The Belgian government on Thursday also decided a series of new measures, including a reinforcement of police controls at its borders, the deployment of 520 soldiers and detention for foreign fighters as soon as they return to Belgium.