IS group says two Paris attackers were Iraqis
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In a 56-page spread featuring the usual jihadist diatribe, the photomontage on the second-last page of the latest issue of Dabiq, the Islamic State (IS) group’s online magazine, is easy to overlook.
Titled “Just Terror,” the visual features nine men in combat fatigues glowering against the Paris landscape above a single line proclaiming, “Let Paris be a lesson for those nations that wish to take heed…”
A day after the latest Dabiq issue was released, security experts were indeed paying heed -- particularly since the group of nine men who conducted the deadly November 13, 2015, Paris attacks included two men identified as Iraqis.
“Those two Iraqis were the two that were still not identified by French authorities,” said Wassim Nasr, FRANCE 24’s expert on jihadist groups, noting that the two men had used stolen Syrian passports to enter Europe with the flood of migrants seeking asylum last year.
The two suicide bombers, who blew themselves up at the Stade de France on November 13, were identified by the names on the stolen passports: Ahmad al-Mohammed and al Mahmod. A passport bearing the name al-Mohammed was found near the site of the attack and both men were fingerprinted upon their arrival at the Greek island of Leros in October. Little else was known about the two men despite repeated calls by French authorities for witnesses to come forward and identify them.
The 13th issue of Dabiq, circulated online Tuesday night, identified the two men as Ukashah al-Iraqi and Ali al-Iraqi. As is common in jihadist circles, the men were identified by their aliases, which typically incorporate the countries of their origin or residence.
The November 13 Paris attacks, which killed 130 people, were conducted by three teams of assailants who targeted the Stade de France, the Bataclan concert hall, and a series of bars and restaurants in the lively 10th and 11th arrondissements of the French capital. The teams were comprised of three men each. In addition to the nine attackers, two other suspected accomplices, Salah Abdeslam and Mohamed Abrini, are on the run.
Trove of information in one visual
The photomontage in the latest Dabiq issue has been largely overlooked by international news media, which have focused on the IS group’s confirmation of the death of Mohammed Emwazi, a British citizen known as “Jihadi John”. Emwazi, identified in Dabiq as Abu Muharib al-Muhajir, was killed in a US drone strike in Raqqa, Syria, in November 2015.
But the single visual dedicated to the Paris attacks contains a lot of useful information, according to Nasr. “We learn many things from this picture. We learn, for example, that there’s a contradiction with the first claim [of the Paris attacks] that the Islamic State group put out. After the attack, they claimed that eight people conducted the Paris attacks and in this Dabiq issue, we see nine people,” said Nasr.
One likely explanation for the inconsistency, Nasr suggests, could be that eight people left from the IS-controlled areas of Syria or Iraq. The ninth attacker, as well as other accomplices, may have been “added at the last minute” in Europe.
Homage to the dead
The visual of the nine attackers is striking for the prominent position given to Abdelhamid Abaaoud, believed to be the planner of the November 13 attacks. Identified in Dabiq as Abu Umar al-Baljiki, the Belgian national is the only assailant in the visual brandishing an assault rifle – the rest either wield knives or display the raised index finger associated with the IS group.
Missing from the graphic though, is Salah Abdeslam, a Belgian-born militant believed to be the driver of the car that transported the team which attacked bars and restaurants in the 10th and 11th arrondissements. However Abdeslam’s brother, Brahim Abdeslam, who was in the SEAT car, is featured in the Dabiq graphic.
Salah Abdeslam is the subject of a massive international manhunt while his older brother, Brahim, was killed on November 13.
Nasr suggests Salah’s absence from the Dabiq visual could be because he is alive and on the run. “The graphic is a homage to the dead, the martyrs,” explained Nasr.