Abdelhamid Abaaoud aka Abu Umar Al-Baljiki — the alleged mastermind of the Paris attacks
Here is what is known about him so far. Several pictures of him have surfaced on social media, primarily Twitter.
Born in Belgium, he is believed to be in Syria and several photographs of him have surfaced, including one in an IS publication “Dabiq” where he is named as Abu Umar Al-Baljiki, which presumably must be his nom de guerre.
Other photographs of Abaaoud include one where he is standing next to a flag of the Islamic State.
Yet another has him standing next to two other purported members of IS and they have been named as Abu Khalid Al-Baljiki and Abuz-Zubayr Al-Baljiki. In the interview with IS publication ‘Dabiq’, Abdelhamid Abaaoud says that Abu Khalid were both killed in Belgium while carrying out an operation against the “crusaders”.
In another photograph, he is seen as sitting at the helm of what appears to be an anti-aircraft gun.
In July 2015, it was reported that Abdelhamid Abaaoud had been sentenced in absentia by a court in Belgium to 20 years in prison for recruiting fighters for IS.
Belgian media has also linked him to a terrorist cell in the town of Verviers. According to a report, he is 27 years old and was born in Belgium to parents who emigrated from Morocco. He is said to be a resident of the Brussels neighbourhood of Molenbeek and joined IS in 2013.
Abdelhamid Abaaoud also recruited his 14 year old brother Younes to fight for IS. He is seen below (circled in red).
Interview with IS publication Dabiq
In a detailed interview with IS publication ‘Dabiq’, Abdelhamid Abaaoud spoke of an operation in Belgium which was carried out by Abu Khalid Al-Baljiki and Abuz-Zubayr Al-Baljiki. He told the interviewer how he was able to reach Belgium despite being on the watchlist of several international intelligence agencies and even managed to make it back to “Shaam”.
Responding to a question he said Abuz-Zubayr and Abū Khālid were together in a safe house and had their weapons and explosives ready. “The kuffār raided the place with more than 150 soldiers from both French and Belgian special forces units. After a gun battle that lasted about 10 minutes, both brothers were blessed with Shahādah, which is what they had desired for so long. I ask Allah to accept them both.” he said.
He further said that the “Crusader states” gathered intelligence agents from all over the world – from Europe and America – in order to detain him. “They arrested Muslims in Greece, Spain, France, and Belgium in order to apprehend me. Subhānallāh, all those arrested were not even connected to our plans! May Allah release all Muslims from the prisons of these crusaders,” he said.
The detailed interview that appeared in Dabiq’s Seventh Issue can be read here