BRUSSELS -- As authorities search for suspects wanted for plotting to kill police in Belgium, there's one man in particular that stands out. Belgian media have identified him as Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a 27-year-old Belgian citizen of Moroccan descent and the suspected ringleader of the terror plot to kill police.
He's well known to security forces, and last year he appeared in an amateur video purportedly from Syria. Last month, social media sites said Abaaoud was killed fighting for ISIS. So it came as a shock to police when they turned up recent phone calls made by Abaaoud, very much alive.
"It is sometimes possible for those people to say on internet, on Twitter, on Facebook, that they are dead," said Foreign Minister Didier Reynders. "And we are sure that we have 50 dead people from the Belgian community in Syria. But sure? Are we sure? And we've seen that for some dead people, it's possible to come back from the dead."
Reynders told us that tracking the more than 300 Belgians who have joined the jihad is difficult enough -- tracking those who return is almost impossible.
Abaaoud -- like many others who left for Syria -- lived in a poor neighborhood. Many Muslim immigrants couldn't find work and had trouble fitting in. We wanted to speak with his father in Brussels but he wouldn't let us in.
This weekend, Belgian police tracked other suspects who may be linked to the terror cell in Greece. But they admit that others have simply disappeared, while hundreds of Belgian troops remain on a high state of alert.
The challenge of tracking potential Islamic extremists topped the agenda at a meeting of European foreign ministers in Brussels Monday. For the first time they are proposing building an alliance with Arab countries to figure out a better way to share more intelligence.
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