November 13 2020 — The November 2015 Paris attacks were a series of coordinated terrorist attacks that took place on Friday November 13 2015 in Paris, France and the city’s northern suburb, Saint-Denis. Five years after the attacks, there are still many dark corners to that affair. Oussama Atar is dead, but many questions regarding his activities in Belgium remain unexplained. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY
RELATED POST: Paris attacks — Belgium formally charges Yassine Atar
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UPDATE (November 13 2021) — On Wednesday, Francois Hollande told the court there had been intelligence failures ahead of an Islamic State attack against Paris in 2015.
The former French president also took a swipe at Belgium. “It wasn’t France’s fault, but that of another country,” Hollande told the court of Salah Abdeslam’s escape from France.
Flashback — On November 14 2015, French police stopped the car carrying Abdeslam. They contacted the Belgian police and asked if they had him on a watch-list. They never got an answer and let him go.
Abdeslam was only arrested in a raid by armed police in the Molenbeek area of Brussels four months later.
Even though Oussama Atar’s name was on the Belgian foreign fighters list, he visited his cousins — the El Bakraoui brothers, who had been arrested for criminal activity — at two separate prisons on the outskirts of Brussels more than 20 times.
These cousins are two of the suicide-bombers who later carried out the Brussels attacks. Here is a story few people know.
In a cold and dark evening of December 2014, a lonely 70 years old man decided to go watch a soccer game at a nearby cafe. On his way to the pub, this quiet retiree was horribly murdered. The Belgian police never solved the case.
On December 20 2016, Oussama Krayem — one of the accomplice of the Bakraoui brothers — revealed that Khalid El Bakraoui had told him they had killed this old man for no reason. “They just wanted to have a bit of fun,” Krayem told the investigators.
At least a dozen of intelligence agencies knew that Oussama Atar was a very dangerous individual, and yet the Belgian intelligence agency has always claimed that there was no evidence he was a Islamic terrorist.
Belgian Intelligence officials have always denied knowing anything about Atar. At the same time, they have refused a court order to turn over his intelligence file…
The truth has not been told. The irresponsibility of some politicians, the amateurism of the intelligence services and the incompetence of the government made it possible for Atar to succeed.
As the French Newspaper “Le Monde” wrote after the Paris attacks, Belgium is a Nation without a State. Stay tuned!
END of UPDATE
UPDATE (September 8 2021) — Today, 20 men accused of planning and carrying out these barbarian attacks will go on trial in Paris.
Nearly 1,800 witnesses and victims are expected to testify in a trial that will last nine months.
“It is enormous and historic. After nearly six years of investigation, this will be a trial for history,” says retired Judge Jean-Louis Bruguière, who used to head France’s anti-terrorism investigation unit.
Maybe… The trial, after a five-year investigation, is not mandated to make findings on whether or not there were security or intelligence failings by the French and Belgian states.
Flashback — According to an official letter, the Iraqis had released Oussama Atar (the mastermind of the Paris and Brussels attacks) on several conditions.
First of all, Atar would not be allowed to travel, and thus the Belgian Foreign Ministry would not give him a passport.
And yet, the Belgian Foreign Ministry did issue a passport to Ousama Atar. The reasons for this remain a mystery to this day.
In a new book [Le clandestin de Daech (in French)] politician Georges Dallemagne journalist Christophe Lamfalussy look into this issue that I have raised long ago.
“The most disturbing is not that Belgium sought to repatriate Atar to Belgium, it is the fact that he was left free, unsupervised.
Why was he given a passport? Why was he allowed to radicalize his cousins in prison?
What was he going to do in Tunisia? Why was he not monitored after his escapade which has stirred up the Tunisian anti-terrorist services to such an extent that they will later make the trip to talk to their Brussels counterparts?
What was the responsibility of the Belgian state actors in this tragedy? The victims of the attacks have the right to know.”
Sadly, I do not expect the trial to answer any of these fundamental questions. It would be hugely embarrassing to the political elite. Move on, nothing to see here…
As the then French President Francois Hollande told a Belgian newspaper a few days ago: “What would the point to pick a fight with Belgium?”
I maybe overly naive. But I would think that the point would be to avoid the next attack.
END of UPDATE
UPDATE (November 13 2020) — Another year is gone. And what have we learned?
On February 28 2018, the Belgian Federal representative Georges Dallemagne asked the following questions which Intel Today raised long ago to the Belgian Minister of Justice Koen Geens.
Georges Dallemagne — Some news agencies report that Oussama Atar is dead in Syria or Iraq. We know that his role in the Paris and Brussels attacks is very important, even if there are still many gray areas.
The circumstances of his release when he returned in 2012, the reasons why the Belgian Government actively sought to release him, the reasons why he was not the subject of surveillance measures by the Belgian security on his return from Iraq, the reasons for which a passport was issued to him contrary to the promises of the Belgian authorities towards the Iraqi authorities, are so many enigmas.
The Belgian population and the victims of the attacks in Paris and Brussels have the right to have, one day or the other, as soon as possible, answers to these questions. Also, do you have any information to confirm Osama Atar’s death? Where, when, and under what circumstances?
Regardless of this, is a judicial inquiry concerning Osama Atar ongoing? If so, will it continue?
Koen Geens — State Security has received information that may indicate the death of Oussama Atar. Given the situation in the Iraqi-Syrian zone, this type of information can not be fully confirmed. This information is exchanged with the various Belgian partners and put into perspective with the other information collected in order to obtain an image of the most recent threat possible. The open judicial investigation in question of Osama Atar continues.
Georges Dallemagne — I am satisfied with the minister’s response. With the usual reservations, it seems to indicate that Osama Atar is dead and, importantly, that the judicial investigation continues. It is essential to continue to try to shed light on this dark affair.
So, the open judicial investigation in question of Osama Atar continues… Quousque tandem?
Another year is gone. And what have we learned? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. This case is a disgrace!
END of UPDATE
Friday November 13 2015 — Beginning at 21:16 CET, three suicide bombers struck outside the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, during a football match.
This was followed by several mass shootings and a suicide bombing, at cafés and restaurants.
Gunmen carried out another mass shooting and took hostages at an Eagles of Death Metal concert in the Bataclan Theatre, leading to a stand-off with police.
The attackers were shot or blew themselves up when police raided the theatre.
The attackers killed 130 people, including 90 at the Bataclan Theatre. Another 413 people were injured, almost 100 seriously.
Oussama Atar, a Belgian of Moroccan descent, is now widely believed to be the mastermind of both the Paris and Brussels attacks.
On November 7 2018, the French DGSE confirmed Oussama Atar’s death.
French news website Mediapart, citing France’s General Directorate of External Security (DGSE), confirmed that Oussama Atar was killed by an airstrike by the international anti-jihadist coalition in Syria.
“On November 17th, 2017, a strike by the international coalition in Syria killed the Belgian Oussama Atar.”
The Belgian Federal Prosecution Service did not wish to comment upon the information.
So, Oussama Atar is dead, but many questions regarding his activities in Belgium remain unexplained.
According to an official letter, the Iraqis (Read: “the Americans”) had released Atar on two conditions. First, Atar would not be allowed to travel, and thus the Belgian Foreign Ministry would not give him a passport. Second, his activities would be monitored.
Even though Atar’s name was on the Belgian foreign fighters list, he visited his cousins — the El Bakraoui brothers, who had been arrested for criminal activity — at two separate prisons on the outskirts of Brussels 20 times. These two cousins are two of the suicide-bombers who later carried out the Brussels attacks.
The Belgian Foreign Ministry did issue a passport to Ousama Atar. The reasons for this remain a mystery to this day.
One should never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.
At the same time, one should not rule out malice altogether. Five years after the attacks, there are still many dark corners to that affair.
Atar’s lawyer — Vincent Lurqin — had appealed to Belgian intelligence for more information.
A letter from Belgian Intelligence shows that they denied knowing anything about Atar. At the same time, they refused a court order to turn over his intelligence file!
In May 2006, the CIA informed the Belgian Intelligence Services that Oussama Atar is jailed at Cropper Camp in Irak. [Keep in mind that he had been arrested in Ramadi, then under the control of al-Qaeda.]
A Belgian Intelligence officer — André Jacob — was sent to Irak to interview Oussama Atar. The ‘interview’ lasted about one week.
On April 9 2008, Atar’s release from jail is decided at the highest level of the Belgian Government by the Comité Ministeriel de Renseignement et de la Sureté [CMRS].
On April 18 2008, the Belgian Foreign Ministry requests Atar’s release. In exchange, it offers promises to the Iraqi government that Atar will be monitored and not allowed to travel (no passport).
According to Didier Reynders — who was a member of the CMRS in April 2008 — the Belgian Intelligence Services had a keen interest in the release of Oussama Atar. And why would that be?
In a piece titled “The Islamic State of Molenbeek” published by the New York Times on April 11 2016, Roger Cohen — a former journalist who worked for Reuters in Brussels — wrote:
“A jihadi loves a vacuum, as Syria demonstrates. Belgium as a state, and Belgium as the heart of the European Union are as close to a vacuum as Europe offers these days. (…) There is a vacuum. Vacuums are dangerous.”
It is becoming increasingly difficult to disagree with the harsh criticism expressed by Cohen and other experts. It would seem fair to quote William Shakespeare: “There is something rotten in the Kingdom of… Belgium.”
But, as the French Newspaper “Le Monde” wrote after the Paris attacks, Belgium is a Nation without a State.
1985 May 4 — Born in Laeken, Belgium
1999/2000 — First visit to Syria. Lives in Idlib
2002 — Ousama Atar travels to Syria
2004 — Atar goes back in 2004 before travelling to Iraq.
2005 — Arrested in Ramadi for crossing the border illegally/weapons trafficking
2005 May 24 — Life sentence
2006 May — The CIA informs the Belgian Intelligence Services that Oussama Atar is jailed at Cropper Camp in Iraq.
2006 — A Belgian Intelligence officer — André Jacob — is sent to Iraq to interview Oussama Atar. The ‘interview’ lasted about one week.
2007 February 28 — Under pressure from the Belgian government, the sentence is reduced to 10 years
2008 April 9 — Atar’s release from jail is decided at the highest level of the Belgian Government by the Comité Ministeriel de Renseignement et de la Sureté [CMRS].
2008 April 18 — The Belgian Foreign Ministry requests Atar’s release. In exchange, it offers promises that will be monitored and not allowed to travel (no passport).
2009 — A letter sent from the US Embassy to Belgian officials in Jordan outlines how Atar attempted a prison break with terror leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
2010 May — Amnesty International raises concerns about Atar’s general state of well-being to the Iraqi authorities
2010 Summer — Atar receives a consular visit from the Belgian embassy in Amman
2010 October 9 — The Belgian government [Website of Foreign Affairs] publicly reveals that repeated requests were made by Belgium to the Iraqi government to consider an early release of Oussama Atar for humanitarian reasons
2010 October 9 — Belgian politicians Zoé Genot, Ahmed Mouhssine, Jamal Ikazban and Ahmed El Khannouss participate in a campaign to free Oussama Atar
2010 November 14 — Amnesty International “call for action” to activists. “Oussama Atar, a 26-year-old Belgian national, is in need of urgent medical care at al-Rusafa Prison in Iraq.” [This information is false]
2012 September 16 — Oussama Atar returns to Belgium
2013 — Belgian Foreign Ministry delivers a passport to Oussama Atar
2013 December 30 — Atar is arrested in Hammamet, Tunisia. He is released and disappears. He later reappears in the Syria-Irak area.
2015 (Summer) — Belgian Police learns that Khalid El Bakraoui asked friends to gather “as much Kalashnikov ammunition as possible”.
2015 October 21 — Khalid El Bakraoui’s house is searched. Investigators find “calls for jihad” and “photos of known terrorists” on his laptop. Nothing is done. He is NOT arrested.
2015 November 13 — Paris attacks
2015 December — After the arrest of two “returnees” from Syria, the investigators learned about known as ‘Abu Ahmad’, a terrorist involved in recruiting a number of Islamist militants for attacks in Europe. Later, a computer — found in garbage — establishes the identity of Abu Ahmad as Oussama Atar.
2016 March 22 — Brussels attacks
2017 June 2 — Yassine Atar — brother of Oussama — is charged with ‘terrorist assassinations’
2017 November 17 — Atar is killed in Syria
2018 February 22 — Oussama Atar is reported dead
2018 November 7 — Atar’s death is confirmed
Special Report: Paris Attacks Aftermath & Manhunt (Sky News)
Paris attacks: Did intelligence fail in France?
November 2015 Paris attacks — Wikipedia
On This Day — The Paris Attacks (November 13 2015)
On This Day — The Paris Attacks (November 13 2015) 
Five Years Ago — The Paris Attacks (November 13 2015)
Five Years Ago — The Paris Attacks (November 13 2015) [UPDATE : At long last, the trial begins.]
On This Day — Remembering the Paris Attacks (November 13 2015)