French police arrested more than 20 terrorists and seized arms and ammunition in a series of anti-terror raids across the country. French intellegence officials have been abble to detect Abdelhamid Abaaoud, alleged mastermind of Paris terror attacks.
Abaaoud has spent time in the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek, a hotbed of Islamic extremism and home to several members of the militant cell that carried out Friday’s attacks on the Stade de France, the Bataclan concert hall and a string of crowded bars and restaurants. He is suspected of involvement in a narrowly averted attack on a Thalys high-speed Amsterdam-Brussels train in August.
As details emerged of an elaborate international terror operation run from Syria and carried out by a sleeper cell based in Belgium, officials told French media that Abaaoud, seen as one of Islamic State’s most active operatives, was “investigators’ best bet” as the main organiser of the attacks, which killed 129 people on Friday.
He is also said to have carried out several armed robberies with one of the men alleged to have been involved in the attacks, the worst in France since the second world war. A French jihadi arrested last summer after returning from Syria reportedly told police that Abaaoud had instructed him to attack a concert hall.