France identifies suspected coordinator of Paris, Brussels attacks

Posted at 7:59 AM, Nov 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-08 11:26:28-05

Investigators have identified the suspected coordinator of the Paris and Brussels terror attacks as Oussama Atar, a French intelligence source has told CNN.

Atar, also known as Abu Ahmad, is a cousin of the El Bakraoui brothers who blew themselves up in the Brussels Airport and metro attacks in March.

The 32-year-old Atar, who has dual Belgian and Moroccan nationality, is suspected of having directed the attacks from Syria, and he remains at large.

The source said that investigators found proof on the laptop of one of the Bakraoui brothers.

Brothers were suicide attackers

Ibrahim and Khalid El Bakraoui both detonated suicide bombs in the March 22 attacks in the Belgian capital that killed 32 people and injured more than 300.

Ibrahim, along with another bomber, blew himself up in the departure lounge of Brussels Airport in Zaventem before his brother detonated his on the Brussels subway about half an hour later.

The attacks in Belgium came four months after an even deadlier assault on Paris on November 13, 2015. Seven attackers killed 130 people in multiple gun and bomb attacks across the French capital.

Investigators have long said the attacks were planned and carried out by the same ISIS network.

Two suspects in custody

Two suspects in the attacks are in French custody.

Mohamed Abrini, who was seen in a surveillance video from the Brussels Airport with the bombers and has been linked to the Paris attacks through surveillance footage and DNA, was arrested in April.

Abrini has told Belgian investigators that he traveled to Raqqa, the Syrian city that’s the capital of ISIS’ so-called caliphate, in 2015. There, he met Abdelhamid Abaaoud — the man who organized the Paris attacks, and was later killed in a shootout with police.

Belgium has since handed over Abrini to French authorities.

Salah Abdeslam is one of the 10 men accused of carrying out the Paris attacks. After four months on the run, he was arrested in a Brussels suburb in March, and has been extradited to France to await trial.

He and Abrini were identified together on surveillance video at a gas station in France two days before the Paris attacks.

According to Belgian network VTM, Abrini has suggested to investigators that Abdeslam was a key figure in the Paris plot who picked up most of the attackers coming from Syria and dropped them off at hiding places.