Ringleader of Paris Attacks Planned Assaults for 11 Months

French intelligence officials have concluded that Abdelhamid Abaaoud was involved in at least four of six terrorist plots foiled in France since the spring.

VERVIERS, Belgium – Eleven months before the declaration on Nov. 19 that he had been killed during a dramatic raid, Abdelhamid Abaaoud – the suspected architect of the deadly terror attacks in Paris – began plotting an elaborate campaign of terror across Europe, the New York Times reported.

Abaaoud’s inaugural terror mission here ended in disaster for his cause and cost the lives of two of his jihadist friends – both from his old Brussels neighborhood, Molenbeek – when Belgian security forces stormed their hide-out on Jan. 15, the newspaper reported.

But Abaaoud was not there. A telephone call he made shortly before the raid in Verviers to pass on instructions to those in the hide-out, a senior Belgian counterterrorism official said, was the last trace anybody had of him until the French police found on Wednesday what turned out to be his mutilated body after an early-morning shootout just north of Paris.

His whereabouts had remained a constant source of mystery and suspected misinformation from his Islamic State handlers. That was, until the bloody raid in the Paris suburb of St.-Denis revealed the gaping holes in Europe’s system of open borders that allowed him to infiltrate France under the noses of the intelligence services across the Continent, the newspaper reported.

“Not a single piece of intelligence from a European country that he might have transited through before arriving in France was communicated to us suggesting that he might be in Europe and was heading towards France,” the French interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, said Nov. 19 at a news conference.

Even as he defended the performance of the French service, Cazeneuve pleaded for more intelligence sharing, saying, “It is urgent for Europe to come together.”

Along the way, Abaaoud, 27, is believed to have organized a string of attacks that made him the most talked-about – and, in jihadist circles, feted – terrorist since Osama bin Laden, according to the New York Times.

French intelligence officials have concluded that Abaaoud was involved in at least four of six terrorist plots foiled in France since the spring, Cazeneuve said.

Before his deadly ambitions culminated in the massacres in Paris on Friday that killed 129 people, they included a thwarted attack on a Sunday-morning congregation at a Paris church and an attack on a Paris-bound train this summer that was halted when passengers overpowered the gunman, the newspaper reported.

The Paris prosecutor, François Molins, said in confirming Abaaoud’s death on the evening of Nov. 19 that the delay in identifying the body, which was virtually pulverized, had been because it required fingerprint analysis, the newspaper reported. “We do not know at this stage whether Abaaoud blew himself up or not,” Molins’s office said.

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