It’s been just over a month since the Paris Attacks. While the basic story is still the same — I did a round-up here on November 27 — there have been a number of interesting developments that provide some insight into how this ISIS cell worked, planned, and executed its attacks.
Updates on the Bataclan
The Bataclan theater was the scene of more than two-thirds of the carnage, and ended in a raid by French commandos.
- The third attacker has been identified as Fouad Mohamed-Aggad, a French citizen long known to French authorities. According to Le Figaro, he and a group of friends went to Syria to join ISIS a few years ago. A few of them were killed almost immediately, and a few more were arrested on their return. Mohamed-Aggad stayed in Syria, married, and recently recently became a father. ISIS notified his parents of his death via text message. (As best I can tell, his parents are cooperating with French authorities). With his identification, all but two of the attackers have been positively identified, and all of those were either French or Belgian. In most cases, they left Europe openly and under their own names, but re-entered in secret. It’s unclear whether they returned posing as Syrian refugees or with fake EU passports.
- The commander of the French commando unit that assaulted the terrorists gave an interview. He says one of the attackers was killed by police fire at the start of the assault, while the other two took hostages in a room upstairs, from which they issued a set of demands about French involvement in the campaign against ISIS. The police subsequently stormed the room and shot another of the attackers dead; a third blew himself up. This appears to differ slightly from other accounts that say that two of the attackers detonated their suicide vests, but it’s still rather close.
- The Eagles of Death Metal, the American band playing at the Bataclan when the attacks began, gave a lengthy interview to Vice. It’s the most detailed English-language account I’ve come across of the actual attack. As you might imagine, it’s gut-wrenching — and not entirely CoC compliant — but it’s well-worth your time. I’m really impressed by these guys. They’re clearly shaken up over it, but they’ve already played again in Paris and want to be the first gig at the Bataclan when it re-opens.
Canada’s National Post has a fascinating report reconstructing the travels of Abdelslam, one of the key organizers of the Paris attacks. He is still at large. Do read the whole thing, but a few stand-out points:
- Abdelsalam spent much of this past summer and fall crisscrossing Europe by car, ferrying a number of men: in some cases, they’ve been positively identified as the other attackers; in others, it’s strongly suspected. Some may have been posing as Syrian refugees; others had Belgian ID cards that proved to be fake. Again, it appears that most (possibly all) of these men were citizens of EU countries.
- There is a new suspect-at-large in the attacks: Mohamed Abrini, who accompanied Abdeslam during his final reconnaissances immediately before the attack. His location is currently unknown, through the Moroccan press speculates that both Abrini and Abdelslam may both be there. I wonder if Abrini was the third, as-yet-unidentified gunman who assisted Abdelhamid Abaaoud and Salah’s brother during the restaurant attacks.
- After the attacks, Salah drove to the 18th arrondissement, where he bought a new SIM card and called friends in Belgium, asking them to pick him up (these friends have since been arrested). Around the same time, he ditched his suicide vest. Interestingly, ISIS claimed responsibility an attack in the 18th arrondissement that did not happen. Maybe Salah got cold feet, though there’s also evidence that suggests he might have wired 750 Euros to Abaaoud after the attack.
- The initial reports regarding the attackers involvement in petty crime and the drug trade seems to have been — if anything — under-reported. This seems less and less to be a sleeper cell of nice Muslim boys whom no one suspected, and more and more to be a group of known criminals and thugs whom the authorities knew to have joined jihad.