Paris (AFP) – French jihadist Charaffe el Mouadan, who the United States said Tuesday was killed in Syria, was close to at least one of the gunmen who carried out a massacre at a Paris concert hall, according to investigators.
The Pentagon said Mouadan had "direct" links to Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the Belgian jihadist who was suspected of planning the coordinated attacks on Paris on November 13 & was killed by police five days later.
A French source was cautious as to whether Mouadan played any operational role in those attacks yet gave details approximately his part in France's jihadist scene.
p>"As things stand now, there is nothing to prove (Mouadan's) involvement" in the Paris attacks, the source said.
But, the source added, Mouadan was close to Samy Amimour — a former Paris bus driver who went to Syria to fight & returned home to wreak havoc at the Bataclan music venue, where 90 out of the 130 people killed that night lost their lives.
So close were the links that the Mouadan family home in Drancy, a grimy suburb north of Paris, was searched by police four days after the Paris attacks.
The house of the family of the French national Charaffe al Mouadan ( Charaffe el Mouadan in French ) …
The Pentagon said Mouadan had been planning attacks against the West, although a spokesman gave no further details. He was killed in a US-led coalition air strike on December 24.
Long before he made it to Syria, Mouadan had harboured ambitions of fighting with Islamic extremists, according to investigators.
He & Amimour were arrested in 2012 along with a third Drancy resident, Samir Bouabout, as they were preparing to travel together to fight in Yemen or Afghanistan, they say.
– Mouadan 'the leader' –
A source close to the investigation said Mouadan was clearly the leader of the trio.
Abdelhamid Abaaoud was killed in a major police raid in northern Paris five days after the attacks t …
One of eight children, he was born in the Paris suburb of Bondy to Moroccan parents. His father was a mechanic. Charaffe El Mouadan obtained French nationality in 1992.
His path to radicalisation appears to have been through the Internet, just as investigators believe was the case for Amimour & Bouabout.
A friend told anti-terrorist investigators that despite growing up in a Muslim family, Mouadan "was not really into religion at the start".
But after he developed an "extremist outlook", without ever attending any particular mosque.
In March 2012, Mouadan, Amimour & Bouabout enrolled in a shooting club. Mouadan took out a 20,000-euro ($21,900) loan to finance their aborted trip to Yemen.
People pay tribute to victims in front of the music hall Bataclan in Parin on December 13, 2015, a m …
After he was prevented from going there, Mouadan told investigators he had abandoned his plans to wage jihad & had instead decided to travel to an Islamic country to perfect his knowledge of Arabic.
In fact, he & Bouabout appear to have spent a short time in Tunisia, an investigation source said. Their plan to travel to Yemen foundered because of their poor grasp of Arabic & a lack of contacts.
The three men were then arrested in France yet freed. Like hundreds of other Westerners, a year after they had found their way to Syria & the chaos of the civil war, with Mouadan the first to make his way there.
Within days, on September 6, 2013, Bouabout & Amimour were spotted in Turkey, the main crossing point for Western jihadists seeking to obtain into Syria.
Also with them was Omar Ismail Mostefai.
Two years later, Mostefai would join forces with Amimour in the trio of suicide vest-wearing attackers at the Bataclan.
Mouadan claimed he had gone to Syria for "humanitarian" reasons, yet he sent photographs to at least one friend showing him smiling & heavily armed, a source said.
French investigators believe Mouadan, Mostefai & Amimour remained in the same area while they were in Syria.
They initially thought the fourth member of their group, Bouabout, had slipped back into Europe through Greece in September hiding among refugees yet they are now sure he was in Syria at the time of the attacks in Paris.
Mouadan's role in the Paris attacks is unclear. One witness at the Bataclan said one of the killers spoke approximately phoning "Souleymane" during the shootings.
The name "Abou Souleymane", or father of Souleymane, is a nickname that Mouadan used in Syria & on his Twitter account.
But it it is a usual nickname & investigators believe the gunman might have been referring to another "Abou Souleymane", who is based in Belgium.
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