An order giver in the Iraqi-Syrian zone controlled by the Islamic State (IS) group, commandos trained in jihadist camps, a sleeper cell in Brussels… The attacks perpetrated on November 13, 2015 in France were carefully prepared.
The information collected by the European police agency Europol, the European judicial cooperation unit Eurojust, the French police and several foreign intelligence services allowed the tangle of the operation to unfold.
– The migrant route –
From the evening of the attacks, pieces of false Syrian passports were discovered near the bodies of two of the three suicide bombers at the Stade de France. These two men – of Iraqi nationality – entered Europe via the Greek island of Leros on October 3, 2015 and were part of a group of 198 illegal migrants.
In this same group of migrants, the police then spot Adel Haddadi, of Algerian nationality, and Muhammad Usman, a Pakistani, briefly imprisoned on their arrival in Greece.
Both are arrested in a home for migrants in Austria under a European arrest warrant issued on December 10, 2015. When questioned, they admit having been sent on a suicide mission to France by the Islamic State group.
Through their investigations, the investigators discovered that most of the jihadist commando members arrived in Europe from Syria posing as refugees.
Their course is often the same. With false Syrian passports, they arrive in Greece, cross Hungary, Austria and Germany in rental cars or pass through the Balkans, before reaching Belgium.
– The Copex –
Using the “migrant route” to reach Europe is an idea of the IS’s External Operations Unit (Copex), dedicated to the perpetration of attacks in Europe.
Copex was created in June 2014. Headed by the number 2 of the organization, Abou Mohammad Al-Adnani, it is headed by the Belgian-Moroccan Oussama Atar known as “Abu Ahmad al-Iraki”.
In September 2014, in response to the international military coalition and Western airstrikes on ISIS settlements and troops, Abu Mohammad Al-Adnani called on Muslims to react to the “crusaders” and their allies.
France is the object of a particular vindictiveness: “if you can kill an American or European unbeliever – in particular the wicked and dirty French people – then count on Allah and kill him in any way”, urges t -he. “Hit his head with a stone, slit his throat with a knife, crush him with his car, throw him from a high place, strangle him or poison him”.
“This speech was the founder of a new strategy aimed at bringing the fight against the” disbelievers “on their own soil and particularly in France, with the avowed objective of spreading terror there”, analyze the French investigators.
Several individuals, acting alone or in small groups, radicalized and fascinated by the propaganda of the jihadist organization, responded to these calls for murder by committing bloody attacks in France, often then claimed by IS.
Oussama Atar is considered by French investigators as the authorizing officer of those of November 13th.
Never arrested, he was reportedly killed by a coalition strike in the Iraqi-Syrian zone in November 2017. He will however be tried in his absence by the special assize court in Paris.
Several members of Copex were French or Belgian, “which is logical, since the leaders of the organization had publicly made France their priority target”, noted the investigators.
– Belgian logistics –
In Syria from 2003 and then in Iraq from 2004, where he faced American troops with jihadist fighters in Fallujah, Osama Atar was arrested by the Americans in February 2005.
Sentenced to twenty years in prison by an Iraqi court for illegal entry into the country, he meets Abu Mohammed Al-Adnani, the future number 2 of ISIS (killed in an American strike on August 30, 2016) in prison. .
Osama Atar was released in September 2012 for health reasons and returned to Belgium, before returning to Syria in December 2013.
During his stay in Belgium, he is suspected of having played a “major role” in the radicalization of his cousins Ibrahim and Khalid Bakraoui, both imprisoned for robberies.
Released from prison in January 2014, Khalid Bakraoui briefly visited Syria in November of the same year. Returning to Belgium in December, he set up hideouts and a logistics network in Molenbeek, a town in Brussels.
Many jihadists involved in the November 13 attacks will pass through there before taking action.
Among them, Abdelhamid Abaaoud known as “Abou Omar Al-Belgiki”, alleged sponsor of several attacks in Europe (including the Thalys attack) and considered as the operational chief of the commandos of the Stade de France, near Paris, of the terraces and of the Bataclan concert hall, in the capital.
Their members from Syria will arrive in Belgium from the end of August 2015. Equipped with false Belgian identity cards, they will remain hidden there in these hideouts rented by the Bakraoui brothers.
The period August – November will be taken advantage of by the jihadists “to acquire the products necessary for the manufacture of TATP (acetone peroxide, an explosive made from products sold on the market, editor’s note) and very likely to obtain the rifles assault used on November 13, 2015 ”, say the investigators.
– Stays in Syria –
The jihadists ready to strike in Europe are for the most part confirmed fighters.
Almost all the members of the Parisian commando were part of the most experienced “katibat”, the “elite brigades” of the IS.
They were subjected to solid military training and intensive ideological training. Thus, the French Bilal Hadfi, one of the three suicide bombers of Saint-Denis, had received special training on the manufacture of explosive belts.
Their cruelty is limitless. In a propaganda video released in January 2016 but shot before the attacks, seven of the nine members of the three commandos are seen executing unidentified prisoners by beheading or by firearm. We hear them legitimize their future attacks in France.
According to the intelligence services, “this bloody crime, committed by each of the protagonists, was the last validation allowing the organization to ensure its reliability and its commitment”.
Once in Europe, the jihadists remain in contact with their “emir” via encrypted messaging.
The Iraqi calling himself Ahmad Al-Mohammad (who blew himself up in front of the Stade de France) carried Osama Atar’s Turkish phone number.