The suspected head of the Paris attacks has been named as Belgian Abdelhamid Abaaoud by French officials.
The 27-year-old is thought to be from the suburb of Molenbeek in Brussels, which is also home to other members of the militant Islamist cell that carried out Friday’s massacre in Paris which left 129 people dead.
Abaaoud, who also uses the name Abu Omar al Baljiki, is of Moroccan origin and is currently believed to be residing in Syria with IS (the Islamic State).
It is not clear when he became radicalised but it is known that he joined IS in early 2013 and has been climbing the ranks within IS rapidly.
The Associated Press reports that he attended one of Belgium’s top secondary schools – Saint-Pierre d’Uccle but grew up in a district of Brussels known for its many Arab immigrants, blighted by high unemployment and overcrowded housing.
In recent years, Molenbeek has had “the highest concentration of foreign terrorist fighters in Europe”, said Liesbeth van der Heide, at Leiden University’s Centre for Terrorism and Counterterrorism in the Netherlands.
More jihadists have gone to fight in Iraq and Syria from Belgium than from any other EU country, per head of population.
It has been reported that Abaaoud had links to the thwarted attacks on a Paris-bound high-speed train, when two US soldiers and a civilian overpowered a heavily-armed gunman. As well as that case, Abaaoud was listed as a suspect on a foiled attack on a church in Villejuif, France.
Abaaoud was so devoted to jihad that he persuaded his 13-year-old brother to join him in Syria.