US puts Paris, Brussels attack suspect on terror list

ISIS

ISIS

The United States on Tuesday added three senior Islamic State (IS) group figures on its terror watch list, including a French national believed to have planned bloody attacks in Paris and Brussels.

The US State Department named Abdelilah Himich, known under the nom de guerre Abu Suleiman Al-Faransi, as the founder of a 300-strong “European foreign terrorist fighter cell” involved in the attacks.

Himich, believed to be a French national of either Moroccan or Tunisian descent, was promoted to the rank of top terrorist planner for Europe following the death of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, one of the senior planners of the November 13, 2015 Paris attacks. Abaaoud was killed in a police raid in the Parisian suburb of Saint Denis days after the Paris attacks.

An IS group defector described Himich as “smart, disciplined, well respected”, the US website Daily Beast reported earlier this year, quoting a French security source.

He also had the advantage of being “born, raised and educated in France” and was often mistaken for a white convert due to his light-skinned appearance, the Daily Beast reported.

“He knows Western culture very well, its strengths and its weaknesses,” an IS group defector, identified by the nom de guerre, Abu Khaled, told the Daily Beast.

A fitness instructor who served in French Foreign Legion

The son of an imam, Himich is said to have run fitness clubs in Paris before fleeing to Syria with his wife and two children at some point during the civil war.

According to US and French officials, Himich also served six months in the French Foreign Legion.

In November last year, Islamists attacked the Bataclan concert hall in Paris, sprayed cafes with bullets and set off bombs outside a soccer match. In all 130 people died, and hundreds more were hurt.

Four months later, suicide bombers attacked the international airport in Brussels and a crowded metro station, killing 32 people.

The US State Department terror designation also blacklisted Abdullah Ahmed al-Meshedani, who allegedly houses IS group fighters and answers to the group’s chief, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

It also named Basil Hassan, who is accused of shooting and wounding Lars Hedegaard, a 70-year-old Danish historian, in February 2013.