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Is ‘the Belgian’ Abou Omar behind the Paris attacks?

France 24 | Abdelhamid Abaaoud, 27, one of the members of the Islamic State (IS) group

A 27-year-old Belgian man of Moroccan origin with links to the Islamic State (IS) group is believed by police and journalists to be behind the Paris attacks that killed 129 people and left more than 350 injured.

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Three days after the Paris attacks investigators are focusing on Abdelhamid Abaaoud, also known as Abou Omar or “the Belgian”, who joined the Islamic State (IS) group in 2013.

Suspected of being linked to other terrorist activities in France, he has been in contact with at least one of the Abdeslam brothers, Salah Abdeslam, who is currently the subject of an international manhunt in connection with Friday's attacks.

The 27 year-old man, who presents himself as the “emir of Belgian jihadists”, is originally from Molenbeek, in the suburbs of Brussels, where several police operations took place on Monday, November 16.

Investigators suspect he may also have been involved in the attack on the Thalys train between Amsterdam and Paris on August 21, 2015.

According to David Thompson, journalist at Paris’ Radio France International (RFI), Abaaoud had also made contact in Syria with Mehdi Nemmouche, the man responsible for the attack on the Jewish museum in Brussels on May 24, 2014.

Abaaoud is also strongly suspected of having been the mastermind behind a network of jihadists that was broken up on January 15, 2015 in Verviers, Belgium. However he had already succeeded in travelling to Syria without being intercepted by Belgian security forces.

According to France 24 journalist Wassim Nasr, who specialises in reports on jihadist activity, Abaaoud is most likely still in Syria.

“This man has been very present on social media since 2013-2014”, explained Nasr, adding that Abaaoud had posted videos of himself “dragging corpses” in Azaz, Syria.

This is an adaptation of a story that originally appeared in French.

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