Manhunt Ensues for Final Terrorist Still At Large; Mastermind of Paris Attacks Identified
French authorities are continuing their search for Salah Abdeslam (pictured below), 26, believed to be the only surviving member of the group that carried out the terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday. The other seven died on Friday night, six from exploding their suicide vests and the seventh when he was shot by police..
One of those terrorists was Brahim Abdeslam, the brother of the man who is now the subject of a massive international manhunt. The names of four more dead terrorists were also released: Bilal Hadfi, age 19 or 20; Ahmad al Mohammad, 25; Ismael Omar Mostefai, 29; and Samy Amimour, 28. Two others have yet to be identified. Two other men suspected of involvement in the attacks were arrested in Belgium, bringing the total number of co-conspirators to 10.
The mastermind of the Paris plot has been identified as Abdelhamid Abaaoud (pictured below), a 27-year-old man from Belgium who has spent time fighting for ISIS in Syria. Abaaoud is also suspected of devising numerous previous terror attacks in France that were thwarted. Those include the August incident aboard a high-speed train that was stopped by visiting American servicemen and a proposed April shooting rampage at a church outside Paris.
Abaaoud was nearly captured in Belgium in January, after a plot to shoot police officers in Brussels was broken up. Abaaoud's two accomplices were captured, and Abaaoud himself was even detained. However, he was let go at the time when authorities did not recognize him. He later boasted about his escape, saying, "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 then returned to Syria, where he is thought to be now.
The French president, Francois Hollande, declared Monday morning that "France is at war" with ISIS. Speaking at the G-20 conference in Turkey, President Obama offered support for America's oldest ally as France ramps up its retaliation against ISIS. So far, French planes have increased bombing runs in Syria targeting ISIS infrastructure and leadership.
President Obama rejected calls from some to send American ground troops into Syria, saying that to do so would be a mistake according to his closest military and civilian advisors. "This is not a traditional military opponent," he said. "We can retake territory and as long as we keep our troops there we can hold it. But that does not solve the underlying problem of eliminating the dynamics that are producing these kinds of violent, extremist groups."
Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Paris Monday evening, where he pledged cooperation and intelligence sharing with his French counterparts. "Ultimately, we will defeat [ISIS]," the secretary said outside the U.S. embassy, "and all who share their despicable ideology. We are on the course to do so."