‘High level’ ISIS command behind Paris & Brussels terrorist attacks – Belgian prosecutor

People mourn on the Republique square in Paris, France, a week after a series of deadly attacks in the French capital, in Paris, France, November 20, 2015. © Philippe Wojazer
The terrorist cell behind the deadly Paris and Brussels attacks received their orders from someone “very high” in the Islamic State chain of command, Belgium’s federal prosecutor announced.

“We know that the orders came from the Islamic State zone... We know that it went very high in the command,” Frederic Van Leeuw said in an interview with AFP in Brussels.

The prosecutor revealed that the attacks were carried out by the same Franco-Belgian cell which meant “the logisticians in one case became the operational ones in the following case.”

He said that the goal of the present investigation into them is to “understand and retrace” the course of events that led to the attacks and to “retrace the entire chain of command.”

Van Leeuw did not name the commander who issued orders to attack the European capitals, or the location from which the order came. The territory under IS (formerly ISIS/ISIL) control at the time of the atrocities and to this day stretches from Syria to Iraq.The so-called caliphate is being run by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, but because of the US-coalition and Russian airstrikes, the IS command is being forced to shift all the time.

“We don't know at all who are the people who really gave the orders,” Leeuw said. “Baghdadi was for a while in Mosul (Iraq), sometimes in Raqqa (Syria).”

As the investigation into the attacks continues, French investigators on Tuesday identified a Moroccan-Belgian militant named Oussama Atar as the “coordinator” of the attacks. Also known as Abou Ahmad, the militant is believed to reside in Syria and has been on the radar of European security forces for more than a decade.

On Wednesday Van Leeuw said Atar’s suspected role “is one of the working theories among others.”

“There are a whole series of checks to be done,” Leeuw added.

Abou Ahmad was arrested in Iraq in 2004 by US-forces and has spent time in jails including the notorious Abu Ghraib prison before being released in 2012. He then returned to Belgium before apparently moving back to IS-controlled areas where intelligence services lost track of him.

On November 13, a wave of bombings and shootings killed 130 people and injured hundreds more across the French capital. In March, the same cell carried out suicide attacks in the airport and a metro station in Brussels, leaving 23 people dead and more than 300 injured.