THE suspected mastermind behind the Paris terror attacks boasted about his intention to "terrorise" Europe in an interview earlier this year.
Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who is still at large following the shootings and bombings that killed 129 people and injured hundreds on Friday night, had been linked to previous plots that were thwarted by police.
The 27-year-old joined Isis in Syria in 2013, where he goes under the name Abu Umar al-Baljiki and was seen in a video transporting mutilated bodies to a mass grave.
But after training with the terrorist group he returned to Belgium in order to carry out an attack in his home country days after the Charlie Hebdo massacre in January.
Abaaoud and two other Belgian jihadists, Khalid Ben Larbi and Sufian Amghar, planned to kill police officers but their hideout in Verviers was raided before they could carry it out.
Ben Larbi and Amghar were killed in a shoot-out with police, who found Kalashnikovs, bomb-making equipment and police uniforms on 15 January.
But Abaaoud was not in the house at the time and managed to escape back to Syria, being featured in the seventh issue of Isis' Dabiq propaganda magazine the following month.
He said he and his two countrymen had trained in Syria with Isis before returning to Europe "in order to terrorise the crusaders waging war against the Muslims".
Citing Belgium as one of the countries bombing Isis, he said the militants struggled for months to find a way back to the country but were "then able to obtain weapons and set up a safe house while we planned to carry out operations against the crusaders".
Abaaoud claimed he had been previously imprisoned by Belgian authorities and was known to security services but had managed to slip through the net time and time again.
He said a photo was released of him before he escaped the country following the foiled attack in January.
"I suddenly saw my picture all over the media," he was quoted as saying. "I was even stopped by an officer who contemplated me so as to compare me to the picture, but he let me go, as he did not see the resemblance!"
Abaaoud boasted that "intelligence agents all over the world" tried to track him but arrests made in several countries were unconnected.
"Allah blinded their vision and I was able to leave and come to Shām despite being chased after by so many intelligence agencies," he continued.
"All this proves that a Muslim should not fear the bloated image of the crusader intelligence.
"My name and picture were all over the news yet I was able to stay in their homeland, plan operations against them, and leave safely when doing so became necessary."
The same issue of the magazine celebrated the attack on a Jewish supermarket attack carried out by Isis follower Amedy Coulibaly, following the al-Qaeda inspired Charlie Hebdo massacre.
A French official told the Associated Press Abaaoud was involved in the attack that saw a Moroccan man open fire with a Kalashnikov on a high-speed train to Paris in August. He was tackled by passengers and arrested.
Another planned attack involving Abaaoud against a church in Paris' suburbs was also stopped.
Said to be the son of a shopkeeper from Morocco, he reportedly joined Isis in Syria in 2013 and appeared in a video driving a van carrying a pile of mutilated bodies to a mass grave.
Belgian media reported that he recruited his own 14-year-old brother, Younes Abaaoud, who is believed to be one of the youngest fighters in the so called-Islamic State.
Charlie Winter, a security analyst specialising in Isis, told The Independent Abaaoud's profile would fit that of someone capable of planning the massacres in Paris.
"He's exactly the kind of person you would expect to plan something like this," he said.
"You don't go from never trying anything to masterminding an attack involving multiple attackers, multiple targets and multiple weapons."
8:00PM : A French official has named the suspected mastermind behind the Paris attacks as a Belgian man called Abdelhamid Abaaoud.
He was reportedly involved in previously thwarted train and church attacks.
French prosecutors have also named 28-year-old Samy Amimour as being involved in the attack on the Bataclan concert hall, where 89 of the total 129 people died.
2:00PM (AEST) Five arrests in France after anti-terror raids
SIXTY-eight properties have been searched and five people arrested as police respond to the attacks in Paris.
The raids focused mainly on the Lyon area (France's second largest city) where police found a number of automatic pistols, military uniforms, bulletproof vests and rocket launchers.
Police operations also took place in Bobigny, a suburb of Paris, Toulouse in the south of the country and Jeaumont near the Belgian border.
Prime Minister Manual Valls said terrorists were planning more attacks and could strike again in "days or weeks to come".
9:00 AM (AEST): France launches massive airstrikes on IS in Syria
FRANCE has launched a massive attack on Islamic State's stronghold in Syria, releasing more than 20 bombs.
French defence officials said the attack destroyed a jihadi training camp and a munitions dump.
The attack comes after Isis claimed responsibility for a series of coordinated terror attacks that left more than 130 people dead and injured 352 more in six locations throughout Paris on Saturday.
The ministry spokesman said Sunday that the strikes on Raqqa involved 12 aircraft, including 10 fighter jets, and 20 bombs were dropped.
The French defence ministry said in a statement: "The first target destroyed was used by Daesh (an Arabic acronym for Isis) as a command post, jihadist recruitment centre and arms and munitions depot. The second held a terrorist training camp."
The Syrian anti-Isis activist group, Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, have said that no civilians were killed or injured in the French bombing raids, citing sources in local hospitals.
A video has been tweeted purporting to be the planes targeting off.
The strikes came after Us President Barack Obama sat down with Russian President Vladimir Putin for crucial talks on how to tackle Isis.
The two leaders met on the sidelines of the G20 summit and pledged to eliminate Isis and end the Syrian war that has fueled the terror group's rise.
They huddled over a coffee table in Antalya, Turkey,
French President Francois Hollande called the Paris attacks an "act of war" and said "France will be merciless towards these barbarians."
Prime Minister Manuel Valls has also vowed to "destroy" those behind the attacks.
Thousands of French soldiers have been deployed on the streets of the country, to provide reinforcements to regular police while France is in a state of emergency
French ambassador to Australia Christophe Lecourtier told the ABC that the French air strikes in Syria were part of a "merciless response" to the attacks over the weekend:
"Two days after this terrible night we are just starting to realise what has really happened. But one thing is pretty clear - it's war. It's war when innocent people are killed by a random and covert shoots in the street of a peaceful city on a Friday evening. It's war," he said.
"And I want to send a message to the Australians, the Australian people - first of all, to thank them for the very huge support that we have received, that we have seen in the past 24 hours in so many cities of this great country of yours.
"Second message is that we shall not retreat one millimetre in the fight against terror, be it overseas or in the streets of our cities or in the streets of Paris and the main cities of France. This is why my government has reacted as strongly as possible."
Deakin University terrorism expert Professor Greg Barton spoke to the ABC's News 24 earlier on the news of French air strikes in Syria:
"If they're just targeting military targets, which appears to be the case, that is understandable," he said.
"But there's a limit to what they can do in Raqqa because it is a civilian city of more than 1 million people, most of those people are effectively hostages and this is a very cunning foe that uses people as human shields.
"The longer-term plan will require ground forces. The only ground forces that are going to be able to do this is the Syrian military. We have to find a way to do that."
Do you support the airstrikes on Islamic State?
This poll ended on 23 November 2015.
Yes. The terrorists must be wiped out
No. It's only going to lead to more attacks
Depends on the way it is done
They need ground forces as well
This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.
Here is what we know so far:
- 132 people are dead and 349 are injured - 99 of them critical.
- Seven attackers were killed, six when they detonated suicide vests and one was shot by police.
- Isis has claimed responsibility for the attacks and has issued further warnings, saying France "will remain on the top of the list of targets of the Islamic State."
- One Briton, named as Nick Alexander, died in the attack.
- One of the attackers has been named as French citizen Omar Ismail Mostefai.
- At least two of the attackers were French men living in Belgium.
- A Syrian passport was found next to the body of one of the suicide bombers near the Stade de France. Reports suggest the passport belonged to a refugee and was issued at the Greek island of Leros. It was then used to travel to Macedonia and then on to Serbia and Croatia.
- AK47 automatic weapons were found in an abandoned black Seat car in Paris' eastern suburb of Montreuil, a vehicle understood to have been used by the attackers.
- Seven people have been arrested in Brussels in connection with the killings.
- Three men were arrested at the Belgian border on Saturday.
- Three brothers were involved in the attacks - with one possibly still at large, according to French news agency AFP.
- French national police have issued an arrest warrant for Abeslam Salah, a French national, who is believed to have been involved in the attacks.
- France has launched bombing raids on Isis in Syria since the attacks, dropping 20 bombs on Raqqa in a run which destroyed a command post and a training camp.
Police hunt fugitive as Paris hit by panic attacks
HUNDREDS of people mourning the loss of lives at a Paris memorial have fled in terror after hearing what appeared to them as the sounds of gunfire.
The crowds screamed and ran as they fled Place de Republique fearing for their lives.
Authorities later confirmed the sound was actually firecrackers.
A French security official said someone had reached out to police in the plaza out of panic, and when officers arrived with weapons drawn, the crowd dispersed in fear.
The official called it a moment of collective panic.
There have been at least three reports of panic breaking out since the Friday night massacres.
There were scenes at a small Cambodian restaurant and a bar where the terrorists hit on Friday night.
Police were seen running with guns drawn.
A separate false alarm prompted panic in Marais, in central Paris.
Meanwhile, French police have put out a photo of a fugitive in the Paris terror attacks, saying the suspect is on the run and too dangerous for anyone outside law enforcement to engage directly.
Police identified the man suspected of renting the car that delivered attackers to the Bataclan concert hall as Salah Abdeslam, a 26-year-old born in Brussels. "Do not intervene yourself," warns the message.
Abdeslam was thought to be directly involved in the attacks, which killed more than 129 people and wounded hundreds in the worst violence in France in decades, French security officials said.
He is one of three brothers believed to be involved in the killings; one was arrested in Belgium and another died in the attack, the first official said.
Abdeslam rented the black Volkswagen Polo used by the group of terrorists who left at least 89 people dead inside the Bataclan, another official said. Both spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.
Seven people were detained yesterday in Belgium in connection with deadly attacks in Paris as the city entered three days of mourning. AAP today reported that the death toll had risen to 132.
Thousands of French troops were deployed and tourist sites were shut in one of the most visited cities on Earth as more details of the investigation emerged.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for Friday's gun and bomb attacks on a stadium, a concert hall and Paris cafes that also wounded 350 people, 99 of them seriously.
As many as three of the seven suicide bombers who died in the attacks were French citizens, as was at least one of the men arrested in Belgium.
A French police official said a suicide attacker identified by a skin sample was believed to have been living in the Paris suburbs before the attacks.
A Belgian official said two of the seven people wired with suicide vests were French men living in Brussels, and among those arrested was another French citizen living in the Belgian capital.
The new information stoked fears of homegrown terrorism in a country that has exported more jihadis than any other in Europe. All three gunmen in the January attacks on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper and a kosher supermarket in Paris were French.
This time, three teams of attackers were involved and seven suicide bombers blew themselves up - three near the stadium, three at the concert hall and one not far from it, authorities said.
A Brussels parking ticket found inside the Volkswagen Polo parked outside the Bataclan concert hall led to one of the men arrested in Belgium, according to a French police official.
Three Kalashnikovs were found inside the other car used in the attacks, a Seat, found in Montreuil, 6km east of the French capital, according.
A Belgian official said the seven people detained would learn later whether they would be held longer in custody. Three other people had earlier been arrested in Belgium.
The Belgian official said two of the seven attackers who died in Paris were French men living in Brussels. One had been living in the Molenbeek neighbourhood, considered a focal point for religious extremism and fighters going to Syria.
Security was heightened across France, across Europe's normally open borders, even as far away as New York, and how to respond to the Paris attacks became a key point among US Democratic presidential hopefuls at a debate Saturday night.
President Barack Obama has called the terror attacks in Paris an "attack on the civilised world".
At the G-20 summit in Turkey which is focusing on fighting terrorism, he pledged US solidarity with France in the effort to hunt down the perpetrators.
At the request of France, the European Union will hold a special meeting of its interior and justice ministers to assess the impact of the Paris attacks.
In Paris, the shining sun and warm air felt cruelly incongruous.
Streets, parks and shops were unusually empty for such a mild, clear day, and several city monuments were closed for security reasons or to express the city's grief.
Some Parisians and tourists defied the high security, walking past heavily-armed and armoured soldiers to take pictures beneath the Eiffel Tower.
In its statement claiming responsibility, the Islamic State group called Paris "the capital of prostitution and obscenity" and mocked France's air attacks on suspected IS targets in Syria and Iraq.
A French survivor of the carnage at the Bataclan concert hall said he was struck by how young the attackers were.
Julien Pearce, journalist at Europe 1 radio, was at the Bataclan for a concert by the American rock band Eagles of Death Metal. He said when the three attackers stormed in "it took me few seconds to realize it was gunshots."
Pearce and his friends immediately got down on the floor to avoid the random shots, then ran and crawled into a tiny dark room next to the stage.
"There was no exit, so we were just in another trap, less exposed, but still a trap," he said.
Pearce said he could discreetly look out and see one of the assailants. He says "he seemed very young. That's what struck me, his childish face, very determined, cold, calm, frightening."
Once the attackers paused to reload, Pearce's group ran across the stage to the emergency exit, helping a wounded woman out. Looking back, he saw "dozens and dozens of entangled, bullet-riddled bodies in a pool of blood." Eighty-nine people were killed at the hall.
Film producer David Pierret said he was sitting on the terrace of the Carillon bar with friends when assailants suddenly started firing Kalashnikov assault rifles.
"By some miracle I was on the far side. My neighbour will have been killed," he said. "Immediately we ran down to the Canal Saint Martin. But they followed. It must have been in a car. We didn't look back. They were firing in the direction of the canal. We ran all the way round to the McDonald's, they were firing at McDonald's. We ran around again back to the Carillon and that's when I saw the bodies on the ground."
"I didn't know if they were male or female. There was a very strange long silence, and then screaming."
President Francois Hollande has said France, which is already bombing Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq in a US-led coalition, would increase its military efforts to crush IS and be "merciless" against the extremists.
French authorities are particularly concerned about the threat from hundreds of French Islamic radicals who have traveled to Syria and returned home, possibly with dangerous skills.
Details about one attacker began to emerge: 29-year-old Frenchman Ismael Mostefai, who had a record of petty crime and had been flagged in 2010 for ties to Islamic radicalism. He was identified from fingerprints found on a finger at the Bataclan, the Paris prosecutor said.
Police detained Mostefai's father, a brother and other relatives, the judicial official said.
Struggling to keep his country calm and united, Hollande has met opposition leaders - conservative rival and former President Nicolas Sarkozy as well as increasingly popular far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who has used the attacks on Paris to advance her anti-immigrant agenda.
On the streets, the nation was in mourning. Flags were lowered and Notre Dame Cathedral - closed to tourists like many Paris sites - planned a special church service for victims' families. Well-wishers heaped flowers and notes on a monument to the dead in the neighbourhood where attackers sprayed gunfire on cafe diners and concert-goers.
Quentin Bongard said he left one of the targeted cafes after a fight with his girlfriend just moments before the attacks. They both narrowly escaped because she had gone inside to pay and hid behind a couch.
"Those are all places that I go often to," the Paris resident said, still shaken. "We just want to come here, bring flowers, because we don't want to be terrorised ... but it is frightening."
Even in their grief, residents were defiant about maintaining the lifestyle that has made their city a world treasure. Olivier Bas was among several hundred who gathered at the site of the Bataclan hall massacre. Although Paris was quiet and jittery, Bas intended to go out for a drink - "to show that they won't win."
Meanwhile, refugees fleeing to Europe by the tens of thousands feared the Paris attacks would prompt EU nations to put up even more razor-wire border fences and other obstacles to their quest to start a new life.
A Syrian passport found next to the body of one of the men who attacked France's national stadium suggested its owner had passed through Greece into the European Union and on through Macedonia and Serbia last month. It's a route tens of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty in Syria and elsewhere have been using.
A top European Union official insisted yesterday that the bloc's refugee policy did need to be overhauled in the wake of the Paris attacks and urged world leaders not to start treating asylum-seekers as terrorists.
"Those who organised these attacks, and those who carried them out, are exactly those who the refugees are fleeing," European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters at the G-20 summit in Turkey. "There is no need to revise the European Union's entire refugee policy."
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