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Paris Attacks 9: Portrait of a terrorist ring emerges

Last Updated Nov 17, 2015 11:54 AM EST

PARIS - As the investigation has unfolded into the terrorists who launched simultaneous attacks across Paris on Friday night that killed at least 129 people, a clearer picture of the group that carried out the attack has come with it.

Iraqi intelligence officials claimed Sunday the attacks were carried out after some of the terrorists trained in Syria with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and later met up with a sleeper cell in Europe. The Iraqis suggested that 19 attackers and five back-up activists committed the carnage, an assertion not publicly supported by Western intelligence agencies.

Additionally, a passport found at the scene of the attacks at the soccer stadium had links to the migrant wave of refugees fleeing the Syria crisis.

While their exact planning and motivations are still being sorted out, a portrait of the terrorists themselves is emerging.

-- Abdelhamid Abaaoud, late 20s

CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports French officials have determined Abaaoud was the mastermind of the operation. He is a Belgian citizen of Moroccan descent who had gone fight in Syria, where he's believed to be now, beyond the reach of European law enforcement.

Earlier this year, he was named as the suspected ringleader of a plot to kill police in Belgium. Abaaoud also is suspected of overseeing two thwarted attacks earlier this year on a Paris church and a Paris-bound train. The latter attack was stopped by American passengers who restrained a gun-toting man before he could open fire.

In 2014, grim footage emerged of him and his friends in Syria loading a pickup and a makeshift trailer with a mound of bloodied corpses.

Before driving off, a grinning Abaaoud tells the camera: "Before we towed jet skis, motorcycles, quad bikes, big trailers filled with gifts for vacation in Morocco. Now, thank God, following God's path, we're towing apostates."

Abdelhamid Abaaoud

Abdelhamid Abaaoud, in an undated image made available in an ISIS publication

AP

-- Salah Abdeslam, 26

There is currently a manhunt seeking Abdeslam, a brother of one of the known suicide bombers who may be the only survivor of the attack. Another brother, Mohamed, was detained by Belgian police but released without charge Monday. His lawyer, Nathalie Gallant, said that, unlike his two brothers, Mohamed Abdeslam "didn't make the same life choice" and had not been "tempted into jihadism."

Salah Abdeslam rented the black car which was used in the attack on the Bataclan, and returned to Belgium on Saturday. He was born in Brussels, and Belgian Police have launched an International Warrant for his arrest. French police published his picture and issued a call to witnesses who may have seen the suspect, while warning citizens to avoid any direct contact with him.

On Sunday, four French officials told the Associated Press that police questioned and freed Salah Abdeslam just hours after the Paris attacks. The questioning came when police pulled over a car near the Belgian border, hours after authorities had already identified Saleh Abdeslam as the renter of a Volkswagen Polo that was abandoned at the scene of the attack. He was one of three people in the car stopped by police Saturday morning, but his name was not yet on a search list, the officials said. Three French police officials and a top French security official all confirmed that officers stopped Abdeslam and checked his ID and then let him go.

Salah Abdeslam and his brother booked a hotel in the southeastern Paris suburb of Alfortville and rented a house in the northeastern suburb of Bobigny several days before the attacks, a French judicial official told the Associated Press.

On Monday, one of his brothers publicly called on him to turn himself in.

-- Omar Ismael Mostefai, 29

Mostefai is from Courcouronnes, Evry, in the Essone, about 20 miles south of Paris, and is of Algerian origin. He lived in Chartres, southwest of Paris, till 2012. He is believed to have the led hijackers in the Bataclan on Friday. His thumb, which was recovered from the scene, enabled police to identify him by digital fingerprinting.

Tall, quiet and conservatively dressed, Mostefai appears to have aroused little suspicion at the housing block he shared with his family in the French cathedral city of Chartres or at the nearby, modern-looking Anoussra Mosque.

He was convicted eight times in petty crime cases between 2004 and 2010. But he was never jailed.

He is known to have regularly frequented the Lucé Mosque, in Eure-et-Loir, 50 miles south west of Paris.

He was put on an S-Card watchlist for radicalization in 2010. S-Card or Fiche S is basically a classification used by French law enforcement to flag an individual considered to be a threat to national security and possibly requiring surveillance or monitoring. Investigators believe he traveled to Syria between 2013 and returned in 2014. But this has not been confirmed.

The Le Monde newspaper reported that Mostefai may have stayed in Syria for several months in the winter of 2013-14, adding that investigators had traced a visit to Turkey.

Seven people from Mostefai's family and inner circle have been arrested as part of the investigation into the attacks, including his father and his brother.

His brother apparently just turned up at a suburban Paris police station in Creteil in the evening, and said he was shocked to learn that his brother was involved in the attacks.

The brother said Omar had left to Algeria with his wife and little daughter several years ago.

A neighbor in Chartres, Eric Pudal, said roughly 20 heavily armed police swooped in on the home Saturday evening.

Pudal said he was startled by the arrest, describing the family, which recently welcomed a baby daughter, as "very nice, very sociable."

Pudal said he had never met the reported suicide bomber, Ismael Mostefai, and had never heard him being discussed by his neighbors.

-- Ahmad Almohammad, 25

Almohammad is a Syrian born in Idlib, believed to be one of the suicide bombers who blew themselves up at Stade de France. While most of what is known about him is being linked to a passport recovered at the scene, a U.S. intelligence source who confirmed the name warned CBS News that the passport might be fake. The passport did not contain the correct numbers for a legitimate Syrian passport. Also, the picture did not match the name.

paris passport.jpg

A Syrian passport with the name "Ahmad Almohammad" on it, recovered from suicide bomber who blew himself up at Stade de France. Officials have not confirmed whether or not the suicide bomber is actually the man who appears on the passport.

That said, Greek officials said that Almohammed entered into Greece on October 3rd. Almohammed entered Serbia on October 7th near Miratovac, from Macedonia. He passed the usual checks and it is certain that he was not armed while passing through Serbia.

Investigators were looking into whether a second assailant may have also entered Europe on the refugee route, but no names were given.

-- Ibrahim Abdeslam, 30 or 31

He blew himself up at the Contoire Voltaire in the 10th District on Friday, and was among those who attacked cafes. He is the third of three French brothers initially linked to the attacks, including Salah, and was a resident of Belgium.

-- Samy Amimour, 28

Originally from Drancy, Aminour was one of the suicide bombers at the Bataclan.

He was know to French security services, and was indicted October 19, 2012, for being part of a criminal association with links to terrorism. He along with others had been trying to leave for Yemen. He was not jailed, but placed under judicial supervision. In the fall of 2013, he violated his judicial review by traveling to Syria, and an international warrant for his arrest had been issued.

Amimour's father made a desperate and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to extract his son from ISIS, Le Monde newspaper reported Monday. Amimour, who lived at home and had a short career as a bus driver, had already run into trouble with the law.

French officials quizzed him on Oct. 19, 2012 over links to a network of terror sympathizers and an abortive trip to Yemen, prosecutors said in a statement. He was subject to unspecified restrictions, prosecutors said. But a December 2014 story in Le Monde suggests that Amimour was able to get around them, eventually joining up with ISIS in Syria.

Amimour's father, who Le Monde did not name, traveled to ISIS-held territory in June 2014 in an effort to convince his son to leave Syria. The 60-something-year-old told the paper he braved machine gun-wielding militants, a minefield and food poisoning. But the reunion was a cold one, the father said, saying his son appeared disinterested and walked with crutches.

"He was with another guy, who never left us alone," the father said. "He didn't invite me home. He didn't tell me how he was wounded, or if he was fighting."

Discouraged by his son's indifference and horrified by his son's friends, who showed him horrific videos of human butchery, he left for Turkey two or three days later. Contact details for Amimour's relatives could not immediately be located. The prosecutor's statement said three members of his family have since been arrested. It did not say whether one of the three included his father.

Agence France Presse reports his family said in the summer of 2014 they had little hope of seeing him again because he had married in Syria.

-- Bilal Hadfi, 29 or 30

He is believed to have blown himself up at the French soccer stadium on Friday. While a French citizen, Hadfi lived in Belgium.

According to Flemish newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws, he was an avid fan of soccer, and became radicalized very quickly in the spring of 2014. According to Belgian sources close to the investigation, Hadfi travelled to Syria where he joined the ranks of ISIS.

He was not known to French security services, but was under some watchlist in Belgium.

-- An 18-year-old unidentified Belgian in the Bataclan attack

-- An unidentified suspect in the stadium bombing


Other locations in the city were hit, but it is not yet completely clear which assailants struck where and in what number.

In addition to providing information about the suspects directly involved in the attacks, Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins told reporters that the suicide vests worn by the attackers contained the powerful but unstable explosive TATP, and French news media quoted intelligence specialists as saying the vests were likely to have been made in Europe, if not in France, by an explosives expert who was not among the attackers.

Two men arrested in Belgium have admitted driving to France to pick up Salah Abdeslam early Saturday, their lawyers said.

Mohammed Amri, 27, denies any involvement in the attacks and says he went to Paris to collect his friend Salah Abdeslam, according to his defense lawyer Xavier Carrette. Hamza Attou, 21, says he went along to keep Amri company, his lawyer Carine Couquelet said. Both are being held on charges of terrorist murder and conspiracy.

Belgian media reported that Amri and Attou were being investigated as potential suppliers of the suicide bombs used in the attacks, since ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer that can be used to make explosives, was discovered in a search of their residence.

The defense lawyers said they could not confirm those reports.

Besides the arrests in Belgium and France, the governor of Bavaria said the arrest of a man in Germany last week may be linked to the Paris attacks. A spokesman for Bavarian state police spokesman confirmed that firearms, explosives and hand grenades were found when undercover police stopped a man near the German-Austrian border on Nov. 5.

Ludwig Waldinger declined to confirm reports by public broadcaster Bayrischer Rundfunk that the man appeared to be en route to Paris when he was arrested. Bavarian governor Horst Seehofer told reporters Saturday there were "reasonable grounds" to assume that there may be a link to the Paris attacks.