Who is Abdel-Hamid Abaaoud?

Abdel-Hamid Abu Oud, or Abaaoud is a Belgian national of Moroccan origin and has been on the run since police raided a suspected terrorist cell in Verviers in January 2015. That security operation was believed to have destroyed a cell plotting to assassinate Belgian police officers.

He is the alleged mastermind of the Paris attacks that killed at least 129 people and is named as the leader of an Islamic State (IS) cell who was sought by police earlier this year and is the target of Wednesday’s police operation north of Paris.

French officials say Abdel-Hamid Abu Oud, 27, was instrumental in organising and executing the gun and suicide bomb attacks in central Paris, AFP reports.

Abaaoud spent time fighting alongside IS in Syria. He was known to security forces after appearing in an Isis video, at the wheel of a car transporting mutilated bodies to a mass grave.

Abaaoud was also linked by French officials to the thwarted attacks on a Paris-bound high-speed train in August and a foiled plot to attack a church in Paris in April.

The French newspaper Libération also linked him to Sid Ahmed Ghlam, a French student charged with murder, attempted murder and terror offences.

Abaaoud regularly attempted to recruit other western fighters to join Isis militants in Syria – even recruiting his 13-year-old brother, Younes, according to French media.

In an interview with the Isis magazine Dabiq, Abaaoud boasted that he had been able to plot attacks against the west right under the nose of Belgian intelligence agencies, and that he was in Syria in February.

The 27-year-old said the two fellow jihadis killed by Belgian police during the raid in January were “blessed with shahādah [martyrdom], which is what they had desired for so long”.

Asked by the magazine why he became a suspect, Abaaoud said: “The intelligence [services] knew me from before as I had been previously imprisoned by them. After the raid on the safe house, they figured out that I had been with the brothers and that we had been planning operations together. So they gathered intelligence agents from all over the world – from Europe and America – in order to detain me.

“They arrested Muslims in Greece, Spain, France, and Belgium in order to apprehend me … All those arrested were not even connected to our plans! May Allah release all Muslims from the prisons of these crusaders.”

He boasted that he had been able to plan terror attacks against westerners while living in Belgium and being wanted by intelligence agencies when he travelled to Syria in January 2014.

“I was able to leave … despite being chased after by so many intelligence agencies,” he told the magazine.

“All this proves that a Muslim should not fear the bloated image of the crusader intelligence. “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. I ask Allah to accept the fruitful deeds of the shuhadā’ [martyrs] who terrorised the crusaders of America, France, Canada, Australia, Germany and Belgium.” ants, the newspaper reported. Yasmina said the family received calls in autumn 2014 from Syria saying he had become a “martyr”, meaning he had been killed in battle. She said the family had not heard from him or the younger brother, now 14, since. However, investigators believed the martyr claim was a ruse to throw western intelligence services off his scent.

Abaaoud was described as a happy-go-lucky student who went to one of Brussels’ most prestigious high schools, Saint-Pierre d’Uccle.