“Abdelhamid Abaaoud [a Belgian-Moroccan killed by police five days after the November 13 atrocities] was only a go-between, not a senior figure. We know the mastermind [of the Paris Attacks] but I will remain discreet on this point.”
DGSE Director Bernard Bajolet
March 14 2017 — A Belgian-Moroccan jihadist operating in Syria is believed to have organized the deadly attacks on Paris and Brussels. Follow us on Twitter: @Intel_Today
RELATED POST: ISIS: 3 Belgian Citizens at the ‘Creation’ Meeting
UPDATE (March 14 2019) — Today, there is no longer any doubt that Oussama Atar — a Belgian of Moroccan descent — was mastermind of the Paris and Brussels attacks.
Another year is gone. And what have we learned? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. This case is a disgrace!
According to an official letter, the Iraqis (Read: “the Americans”) had released Atar on two conditions. First, Atar would not be allowed to travel, and thus the Belgian Foreign Ministry would not give him a passport. Second, his activities would be monitored.
Even though Atar’s name was on the Belgian foreign fighters list, he visited his cousins — the El Bakraoui brothers, who had been arrested for criminal activity — at two separate prisons on the outskirts of Brussels 20 times. These two cousins are two of the suicide-bombers who later carried out the Brussels attacks.
The Belgian Foreign Ministry did issue a passport to Ousama Atar. The reasons for this remain a mystery to this day.
One should never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity; At the same time, one should not rule out malice altogether. Two years after the attacks, there are still many darks corners to that affair.
Atar’s lawyer — Vincent Lurqin — had appealed to Belgian intelligence for more information. A letter from Belgian Intelligence shows that they denied knowing anything about Atar. At the same time, they refused a court order to turn over his intelligence file!
In May 2006, the CIA informed the Belgian Intelligence Services that Oussama Atar is jailed at Cropper Camp in Irak. [Keep in mind that he had been arrested in Ramadi, then under the control of al-Qaeda.] A Belgian Intelligence officer — André Jacob — was sent to Irak to interview Oussama Atar. The ‘interview’ lasted about one week.
On April 9 2008, Atar’s release from jail was decided at the highest level of the Belgian Government by the “Comité Ministeriel de Renseignement et de la Sureté”. [CMRS].
On April 18 2008, the Belgian Foreign Ministry requested Atar’s release. In exchange, it offers promises to the Iraqi government that Atar will be monitored and not allowed to travel (no passport).
According to Didier Reynders — who was a member of the CMRS in April 2008 — the Belgian Intelligence Services had a keen interest in the release of Oussama Atar. And why would that be?
END of UPDATE
For months, Intelligence and Security Agencies around the world have been trying to identify a man only known as ‘Abu Ahmad’, involved in recruiting a number of Islamist militants for attacks in Europe.
The investigators now believe they have identified him as Osama Atar (French: Oussama Atar). “He’s the only coordinator from Syria to have been identified during the investigations,” a French security source told the AFP news agency.
Abu Ahmad/Osama Atar appears to be clearly and directly linked to bombers who targeted Paris in November 2015 and Brussels in March 2016.
A Belgian law enforcement official told Politico :
“Atar is the mentor and cousin of the El Bakraoui brothers. He radicalized them through the internet.”
The role of Abu Ahmad/Osama Atar as coordinator and handler
of returning foreign ﬁghters has been confirmed by the investigation.
His Turkish phone number was retrieved on a Stade de France
suicide bomber. The same number was found in the cell phone of
Haddadi and Usman were in constant contact with Abu Ahmad during their trip to Europe through the encrypted Telegram messaging application, and Abu Ahmad was the one to whom they reported.
After his arrest Haddadi told interrogators that Abu Ahmad had been responsible for their military training in Raqqa and that he provided them with false passports, communication devices, contacts with facilitators and smugglers, and money.
When Haddadi and Usman were unexpectedly detained by the Greek authorities, Abu Ahmad organized the transfer of additional funds to continue their trip. So far, he is the only cadre of the Islamic State whose direct involvement in the planning of the Paris and Brussels attacks has been formally established and documented. [CTC SENTINEL]
Who is Osama Atar?
Abu Ahmad/Osama Atar is a cousin of Ibrahim and Khalid el-Bakraoui (two of the Brussels bombers). He was very well known to Belgian authorities.
Ibrahim el-Bakraoui detonated a suitcase bomb at Zaventem Airport, and his younger brother Khalid detonated his device at Maalbeek Metro station.
Abu Ahmad/Osama Atar first travelled to Syria in 2002 and then went back in 2004 before travelling to Iraq, where he was arrested for crossing the border illegally and jailed in 2005 for 10 years.
Belgian ex-secret service officer Andre Jacob told the BBC that Atar had spent time at the infamous Abu Ghraib jail, run by US forces, before being moved to Camp Cropper. Some Media have reported that he was also detained at Camp Bucca where he reportedly met Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, now the self-appointed “caliph” of Isis.
Why was he released?
Several Belgian political personalities and various Human Rights groups have pressed for his release on health grounds.
Abu Ahmad/Osama Atar returned to Belgium in 2012.
RELATED POST: Europe’s Most Wanted — Let’s get Started!
Atar was arrested while trying to flee to Tunisia the following year, and then disappeared after his release.
Where is Atar?
Some reports have suggested he was based in Raqqa, the main headquarters of jihadist group Islamic State. Truth being told, no one seems to know.
Relatives in Brussels
Atar’s younger brother Yassine was also arrested around the time of the Brussels attacks. (Explosive residues were found on his body.)
Their mother’s home has been raided by police several times since the attacks.
In a message addressed to his mother but sent to Asma — one of his sisters — Atar denied the accusations against him.
“No, I am not Osama Bin Laden or Abou Bakr Baghdadi’s (head of ISIS) right hand man. These dogs (investigators) know very well that I have never met him, in prison or anywhere else.”
“I didn’t know what Ibrahim and Khalid were planning. May Allah punish them. These dogs (investigators) know that after they forced me to leave Belgium, I had no contact with them.”
Belgian Authorities are not as convinced as others — French and American Intelligence Agencies — That Atar is the mastermind of the Paris and Brussels attacks.
Belgian Federal Prosecutor Frédéric Van Leeuw told the AFP that:
The order for the Brussels and Paris attacks came from very high up in the ISIS hierarchy. Osama Atar — being one of the attack commanders– is “one theory among many others”.
To be continued…
UPDATE (March 14 2018) — Today, there is no longer any doubt that Oussama Atar — a Belgian of Moroccan descent — was mastermind of the Paris and Brussels attacks.
On February 23 2018, French media reported that Oussama Atar was dead. He would have been killed “a few weeks ago” somewhere in the “Syria-Iraq” area. His body was not recovered — no DNA — but French Intelligence services believe that he was killed.
Now, the “bad news”… According to an official letter, the Iraqis (Read: “the Americans”) had released Atar on two conditions. First, Atar would not be allowed to travel, and thus the Belgian Foreign Ministry would not give him a passport. Second, his activities would be monitored.
Even though Atar’s name was on the Belgian foreign fighters list, he visited his cousins — the El Bakraoui brothers, who had been arrested for criminal activity — at two separate prisons on the outskirts of Brussels more than 20 times. These two cousins are two of the suicide-bombers who later carried out the Brussels attacks.
The Belgian Foreign Ministry did immediately issue a passport to Ousama Atar after his release from an Iraqi jail. The reasons for this remain a mystery to this day.
Georges Dallemagne (born 17 January 1958 in Belgian Congo), is a Belgian politician and doctor. On February 28 2018, the Belgian Federal representative asked a few questions to the Belgian Minister of Justice Koen Geens and stated:
“The circumstances of his release when he [Oussama Atar] returned in 2012, the reasons why the Belgian Government actively sought to release him, the reasons why he was not the subject of surveillance measures by the Belgian security on his return from Iraq, the reasons for which a passport was issued to him contrary to the promises of the Belgian authorities towards the Iraqi authorities, are so many enigmas.
The Belgian population and the victims of the attacks in Paris and Brussels have the right to have, one day or the other, as soon as possible, answers to these questions.”
I think we can all agree with that…
END of UPDATE
1985 May 4 — Born in Laeken, Belgium
1999/2000 — First visit to Syria. Lives in Idlib
2002 — Ousama Atar travels to Syria
2004 — Atar goes back in 2004 before travelling to Iraq.
2005 — Arrested in Ramadi for crossing the border illegally/weapons trafficking
2005 May 24 — Life sentence
2006 May — The CIA informs the Belgian Intelligence Services that Oussama Atar is jailed at Cropper Camp in Iraq.
2006 — A Belgian Intelligence officer — André Jacob — is sent to Iraq to interview Oussama Atar. The ‘interview’ lasted about one week.
2007 February 28 — Under pressure from the Belgian government, the sentence is reduced to 10 years
2008 April 9 — Atar’s release from jail is decided at the highest level of the Belgian Government by the Comité Ministeriel de Renseignement et de la Sureté [CMRS].
2008 April 18 — The Belgian Foreign Ministry requests Atar’s release. In exchange, it offers promises that will be monitored and not allowed to travel (no passport).
2009 — A letter sent from the US Embassy to Belgian officials in Jordan outlines how Atar attempted a prison break with terror leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
2010 May — Amnesty International raises concerns about Atar’s general state of well-being to the Iraqi authorities
2010 Summer — Atar receives a consular visit from the Belgian embassy in Amman
2010 October 9 — The Belgian government [Website of Foreign Affairs] publicly reveals that repeated requests were made by Belgium to the Iraqi government to consider an early release of Oussama Atar for humanitarian reasons
2010 October 9 — Belgian politicians Zoé Genot, Ahmed Mouhssine, Jamal Ikazban and Ahmed El Khannouss participate in a campaign to free Oussama Atar
2010 November 14 — Amnesty International “call for action” to activists. “Oussama Atar, a 26-year-old Belgian national, is in need of urgent medical care at al-Rusafa Prison in Iraq.” [This information is false]
2012 September 16 — Oussama Atar returns to Belgium
2013 — Belgian Foreign Ministry delivers a passport to Oussama Atar
2013 December 30 — Atar is arrested in Hammamet, Tunisia. He is released and disappears. He later reappears in the Syria-Irak area.
2015 (Summer) — Belgian Police learns that Khalid El Bakraoui asked friends to gather “as much Kalashnikov ammunition as possible”.
2015 October 21 — Khalid El Bakraoui’s house is searched. Investigators find “calls for jihad” and “photos of known terrorists” on his laptop. Nothing is done. He is NOT arrested.
2015 November 13 — Paris attacks
2015 December — After the arrest of two “returnees” from Syria, the investigators learned about known as ‘Abu Ahmad’, a terrorist involved in recruiting a number of Islamist militants for attacks in Europe. Later, a computer — found in garbage — establishes the identity of Abu Ahmad as Oussama Atar.
2016 March 22 — Brussels attacks
2017 June 2 — Yassine Atar — brother of Oussama — is charged with ‘terrorist assassinations’
2017 November 17 — Atar is killed in Syria
2018 February 22 — Oussama Atar is reported dead
2018 November 7 — Atar’s death is confirmed
The Islamic State’s External Operations and the French-Belgian Nexus
By Jean-Charles Brisard and Kévin Jackson — CTC SENTINEL
Is Belgian ISIS Jihadist Osama Atar the ‘Mastermind’ of the Paris and Brussels attacks?
One Year Ago — Is Belgian ISIS Jihadist Osama Atar the ‘Mastermind’ of the Paris and Brussels attacks?
Two Years Ago — Is Belgian ISIS Jihadist Oussama Atar the ‘Mastermind’ of the Paris and Brussels attacks?