Paris Attacks Mastermind Named; French PM Knew "Operations Were Being Prepared" From Syria

As the third day after the Paris attacks dawns, and hours after France launched an unprecedented blitz airstrike on the Islamic State "capital" of Raqqa (located in the sovereign state of Syria), here are the latest developments following the worst European terrorist attack in the past decade.

Moments ago, French officials named the suspected mastermind behind the Paris attacks as one Abdelhamid Abaaoud of Belgium.

According to Sky News, it has been reported that Abaaoud had links to thwarted attacks on a Paris-bound high-speed train when two US soldiers overpowered a heavily-armed gunman and a separate attack on a church. He also had links to two suspects killed in a counter-terrorism raid in Verviers, Belgium, in January.

Abaaoud, who also uses the name Abu Omar al Baljiki, is of Moroccan origin and, sure enough, is believed to be in Syria currently. After all the "Syrian connection" must be kept alive in everyone's head.

He is thought to be the older brother of 14-year-old Younes Abaaoud, one of the youngest European teenagers to travel to Syria to fight.

While Abaaoud's whereabouts or fate are both unknown at this moment, French authorities have been busy and seven people are in custody in Belgium suspected of links to the attacks and an international arrest warrant has been issued for a Belgian-born Frenchman who is still at large. In addition to Abaaoud, investigators also named another suspect who was questioned and released by police hours after the massacres which left 129 people dead.

Below are some of the people already named as suspects in the Friday attacks:

Salah Abdeslam, who has become known as "Public Enemy Number One", reportedly helped with logistics and rented a black Volkswagen Polo used by the gunmen who stormed the Bataclan concert hall and killed at least 89 people on Friday night. The 26-year-old was apparently spoken to by officers on Saturday morning when they pulled over a car carrying three people near the Belgian border. Police then checked Abdeslam's ID and subsequently let him go, officials told the Associated Press. Abdeslam, who was born in Brussels, is described as 1m 75cm (5ft 8in) tall and has brown eyes. Meanwhile more suicide bombers involved in attacks have been identified by the prosecutor's office.

Ibrahim Abdeslam, was the brother of Salah was reportedly among the seven suicide bombers in the co-ordinated assaults targeting six sites across the French capital.

Samy Amimour, 28-year-old, who blew himself up inside the Bataclan theatre, was charged in a terrorism investigation in 2012.Prosecutors said he was from Drancy in northeast Paris and had been placed under judicial supervision but dropped off the radar and was the subject of an international arrest warrant. Three people in Amimour's family have been in custody since early on Monday.

Ahmad al Mohammad, was a suicide bomber who died outside the national football stadium was found with a Syrian passport with the name of this 25-year-old born in Idlib. The identity of the man in the passport has not been verified but the prosecutor's office said fingerprints from the attacker match those of someone who passed through Greece in October.

Ismael Omar Mostefai,  a 29-year-old from Courcouronnes, a town 16 miles south of Paris in Essonne, has been officially identified as another assailant. He was one of the terrorists inside the Bataclan and had been flagged for links to Islamic radicalism. His father and brother have been arrested.

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Also earlier this morning,  French police launched dozens of raids overnight as part of a colossal manhunt in wake of Paris's deadly terror attacks. Prime Minister Manuel Valls told the RTL radio more than 150 raids were carried out across the country.

According to Australia's ABC, French police seized "an arsenal" of weapons during dozens of pre-dawn raids against Islamist suspects in the early hours of Monday (local time), as prime minister Manuel Valls warned terrorists were planning more attacks in the wake of Friday night's atrocities in Paris.

The raids focused particularly on the Lyon area, where police made five arrests and seized a rocket launcher, a Kalashnikov assault rifle, bulletproof vests and handguns.

Police sources said authorities conducted at least 110 house searches in cities around France.

The French PM said terrorism could hit again in "in days or weeks to come" and said the attacks in Paris, which killed 129 people, were "planned in Syria." How he knows that, and how a complicated operation involving numerous concurrent strikes in Paris could have been planned in Syria is unclear, or even remotely logical, but what matters is to, once again, keep the media and public attention focused on the Syria - after all that's where the war will begin.

Perhaps preempting the question how the NSA and Europe's sterling intelligence - which collects all the private information except that which is actually needed to avert tragic loss of life - failed so massively in preventing this terrorist attack, Valls said French intelligence services had prevented several attacks since the summer and police knew other attacks were being prepared in France as well as in the rest of Europe.

"We know that operations were being prepared and are still being prepared, not only against France but other European countries too."

But If you knew, why did you not stop them then? Perhaps some questions are better left unasked.

As reported previously, on Sunday night French jets launched extensive air strikes on what the government in Paris said were Islamic State targets in the terrorist movement's stronghold Raqqa. A manhunt is also underway for Salah Abdeslam, a Belgium-born man identified as the only surviving terrorist from the attacks.

As part of the attacks, the NYT reports that United States warplanes for the first time attacked hundreds of trucks on Monday that the extremist group has been using to smuggle the crude oil it has been producing in Syria, American officials said. "The airstrikes were carried out by four A-10 attack planes and two AC-130 gunships based in Turkey."

The logical question again emerges: why had they not done this before! It will remain unanswered.

"American officials have long been frustrated by the Islamic State’s ability to generate as much as $40 million a month by producing and exporting oil." Well, here's a thought: do something about it then. Unless, of course, low oil is part of the grand US campaign to crush the Russian economy and as a result ISIS dumping of commodities is all part of the grand plan.

According to an initial assessment, 116 trucks were destroyed in the attack, which took place near Deir al-Zour, an area of Syria controlled by the Islamic State that is close to the eastern border with Iraq. No explanation why no trucks had been destroyed previously in the 13 months since the US air campaign over Syria started.

Actually, no: here is the explanation: "Until Monday, the United States had refrained from striking the fleet used to transport oil, believed to include more than 1,000 tanker trucks, because of concerns about causing civilian casualties. As a result, the Islamic State’s distribution system for exporting oil had been largely intact."

And as Doctors without Borders learned so well recently, civilian casualties are now fair game.

The new US campaign is called Tidal Wave II. It is named after the World War II effort to counter Nazi Germany by striking Romania’s oil industry. Lt. Gen. Sean B. MacFarland, who in September assumed command of the international coalition’s campaign in Iraq and Syria, suggested the name.

The bottom line: there are now Russian, US and French warplanes flying within kilometers of each other above Syria, a French ground force is imminent, as European police around the continent is conducting an epic manhunt while the alleged "mastermind" is supposedly thousands of kilometers away.

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Finally, going back to the alleged terrorist attacks mastermind, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, perhaps the most curious discovery is that just a few months ago he was interviewed for the official ISIS magazine Dabiq. His interview below.