The alleged mastermind of Friday night’s terrorist attacks in Paris gave an interview to ISIS’ English-language magazine earlier this year in which he bragged about how he had evaded authorities after his photo was circulated in connection to a plot in Belgium.
Authorities on Monday identified the ringleader of the attacks that killed 129 people and injured hundreds more as “Belgium’s most notorious jihadi,” Abdelhamid Abaaoud.
Eight terrorists took hostages, detonated suicide vests, and shot people in attacks across Paris on Friday night. The police are now seeking Abaaoud.
Abaaoud has reportedly escaped to Syria and is believed to be behind several planned attacks in Europe, according to Reuters.
In his interview with Dabiq magazine, a slick ISIS propaganda publication, Abaaoud talked about how he went to Belgium to mount attacks against Westerners.
“We spent months trying to find a way into Europe, and by Allah’s strength, we succeeded in finally making our way to Belgium,” he said. “We were then able to obtain weapons and set up a safe house while we planned to carry out operations against the crusaders.”
Their plot was thwarted — the police raided a Belgian terrorist cell in January and killed two of Abaaoud’s suspected accomplices, according to The Associated Press. The group had reportedly planned to kill police officers in Belgium.
Abaaoud said the police released his photo after the raid, and he was nearly recognized by an officer who had reportedly stopped him.
“I was even stopped by an officer who contemplated me so as to compare me to the picture, but he let me go, as he did not see the resemblance!” Abaaoud said. “This was nothing but a gift from Allah.”
He then boasted about how he had been known to Western intelligence agents, who he said arrested people all over Europe in an effort to get to him.
“The intelligence knew me from before as I had been previously imprisoned by them,” he said.
“So they gathered intelligence agents from all over the world — from Europe and America — in order to detain me,” he added. “They arrested Muslims in Greece, Spain, France, and Belgium in order to apprehend me. Subhānallāh, all those arrested were not even connected to our plans!”
This appears to have some basis in truth. The BBC reported in January that authorities seeking Abaaoud had detained people in Greece.
Abaaoud also taunted intelligence agencies who failed to capture him.
He said he escaped to Syria “despite being chased after by so many intelligence agencies.”
“All this proves that a Muslim should not fear the bloated image of the crusader intelligence,” he added. “My name and picture were all over the news yet I was able to stay in their homeland, plan operations against them, and leave safely when doing so became necessary.”