Death of Paris attacks ringleader confirmed, French officials announce

It took a little longer to confirm than first thought yesterday, but the initial reports have proven correct. The mastermind of the ISIS terror attacks in Paris last week was killed in the police raid in Saint-Denis yesterday, French officials announced this morning, identified by his fingerprints:

The Belgian jihadist suspected of being the ringleader of the Paris terrorist attacks was killed during a raid on a suburban apartment, officials said Thursday.

Abdelhamid Abaaoud, 27, died during Wednesday’s operation in Saint-Denis, according to the Paris prosecutor’s office. He was identified by his fingerprints. Officials said his body was bullet-riddled. …

The son of Moroccan immigrants, Abaaoud was raised in Brussels’ Molenbeek neighborhood, which has been the subject of a series of raids since the Paris attacks.

He once boasted about avoiding capture by Western intelligence agencies.

How’s that working out for him now? It’s not clear yet whether he died from gunshots or from the explosion, according to Reuters, but Abaaoud is definitely dead. Initially the police didn’t expect to find him in France at all. Guess where they did expect to find him?

Police originally thought he was in Syria, but their investigations led them to a house in the Paris suburb of St. Denis and heavily armed officers stormed the building before dawn, triggering a massive firefight and multiple explosions.

“Abdel Hamid Abaaoud has just been formally identified, after comparing fingerprints, as having been killed during the (police) raid,” the statement said. “It was the body we had discovered in the building, riddled with bullets.

Not all of the action is in Paris. Belgian authorities have continued to conduct raids in and around the Molenbeek neighborhood, arresting one man in a neighboring district after storming six different locations.  It’s a case of too little, too late according to one Muslim journalist, who went undercover in Molenbeek a decade ago and tried to warn authorities about radical Islamist networks forming in “Little Morocco.” Now, she tells the Washington Post, “a whole generation” of fighters is ready to come out of Molenbeek:

Now, she says, because Belgian authorities have not done enough to fight extremism, “there is a whole generation waiting to participate in these actions” — like those carried out in Paris on Friday. Three of the young men she interviewed then are now in Syria, as is the sheik, Bassam Ayashi, who was once linked to al-Qaeda. Ayashi, 69, is believed to be leading part of the more moderate Islamic Front group fighting the Islamic State and the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad; his son and stepson have been killed in battle against Assad forces and Ayashi was recently injured in a bomb attack on his car.

They are just a few of the roughly 100 people who have left Brussels to fight in Syria. And now police and intelligence officials are wondering how many more extremists like those who carried out last week’s attacks in Paris might be living openly and mixing easily in an only moderately religious, middle-class neighborhood near the heart of Brussels. …

“Some people disappear from the radar and then come back as little ghosts,” said Fraihi, “or big ghosts.”

Ayashi was selling “something epic, something romantic that will give your life a mission. And if all day long there is nothing to do, you failed at school, you don’t have a job,” Fraihi said, “it is very easy for figures like this sheik to approach these young men.”

In other words, this problem has been building for longer than the Syrian civil war, and Europe has turned a blind eye to it for just as long. Even when members of these communities tried to warn of the danger, no one wanted to listen. How long will it be before they retreat back into their insular shells and refuse to see the danger again?