“Abdelhamid Abaaoud [a Belgian-Moroccan killed by police five days after the November 13 atrocities] was only a go-between, not a senior figure. We know the mastermind [of the Paris Attacks] but I will remain discreet on this point.”
DGSE Director Bernard Bajolet
A Belgian-Moroccan jihadist operating in Syria is believed to have organized the deadly attacks on Paris and Brussels. Follow us on Twitter: @Intel_Today
For months, Intelligence and Security Agencies around the world have been trying to identify a man only known as ‘Abu Ahmad’, involved in recruiting a number of Islamist militants for attacks in Europe.
The investigators now believe they have identified him as Osama Atar (French: Oussama Atar). “He’s the only coordinator from Syria to have been identified during the investigations,” a French security source told the AFP news agency.
Abu Ahmad/Osama Atar appears to be clearly and directly linked to bombers who targeted Paris in November 2015 and Brussels in March 2016.
A Belgian law enforcement official told Politico :
“Atar is the mentor and cousin of the El Bakraoui brothers. He radicalized them through the internet.”
The role of Abu Ahmad/Osama Atar as coordinator and handler
of returning foreign ﬁghters has been confirmed by the investigation.
His Turkish phone number was retrieved on a Stade de France
suicide bomber. The same number was found in the cell phone of
Haddadi and Usman were in constant contact with Abu Ahmad during their trip to Europe through the encrypted Telegram messaging application, and Abu Ahmad was the one to whom they reported.
After his arrest Haddadi told interrogators that Abu Ahmad had been responsible for their military training in Raqqa and that he provided them with false passports, communication devices, contacts with facilitators and smugglers, and money.
When Haddadi and Usman were unexpectedly detained by the Greek authorities, Abu Ahmad organized the transfer of additional funds to continue their trip. So far, he is the only cadre of the Islamic State whose direct involvement in the planning of the Paris and Brussels attacks has been formally established and documented. [CTC SENTINEL]
Who is Osama Atar?
Abu Ahmad/Osama Atar is a cousin of Ibrahim and Khalid el-Bakraoui (two of the Brussels bombers). He was very well known to Belgian authorities.
Ibrahim el-Bakraoui detonated a suitcase bomb at Zaventem Airport, and his younger brother Khalid detonated his device at Maalbeek Metro station.
Abu Ahmad/Osama Atar first travelled to Syria in 2002 and then went back in 2004 before travelling to Iraq, where he was arrested for crossing the border illegally and jailed in 2005 for 10 years.
Belgian ex-secret service officer Andre Jacob told the BBC that Atar had spent time at the infamous Abu Ghraib jail, run by US forces, before being moved to Camp Cropper. Some Media have reported that he was also detained at Camp Bucca where he reportedly met Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, now the self-appointed “caliph” of Isis.
Why was he released?
Several Belgian political personalities and various Human Rights groups have pressed for his release on health grounds.
Abu Ahmad/Osama Atar returned to Belgium in 2012.
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Atar was arrested while trying to flee to Tunisia the following year, and then disappeared after his release.
Where is Atar?
Some reports have suggested he was based in Raqqa, the main headquarters of jihadist group Islamic State. Truth being told, no one seems to know.
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Relatives in Brussels
Atar’s younger brother Yassine was also arrested around the time of the Brussels attacks. (Explosive residues were found on his body.)
Their mother’s home has been raided by police several times since the attacks.
In a message addressed to his mother but sent to Asma — one of his sisters — Atar denied the accusations against him.
“No, I am not Osama Bin Laden or Abou Bakr Baghdadi’s (head of ISIS) right hand man. These dogs (investigators) know very well that I have never met him, in prison or anywhere else.”
“I didn’t know what Ibrahim and Khalid were planning. May Allah punish them. These dogs (investigators) know that after they forced me to leave Belgium, I had no contact with them.”
Belgian Authorities are not as convinced as others — French and American Intelligence Agencies — That Atar is the mastermind of the Paris and Brussels attacks.
Belgian Federal Prosecutor Frédéric Van Leeuw told the AFP that:
The order for the Brussels and Paris attacks came from very high up in the ISIS hierarchy. Osama Atar — being one of the attack commanders– is “one theory among many others”.
To be continued…
The Islamic State’s External Operations and the French-Belgian Nexus
By Jean-Charles Brisard and Kévin Jackson — CTC SENTINEL
Is Belgian ISIS Jihadist Osama Atar the ‘Mastermind’ of the Paris and Brussels attacks?