CNN has obtained hundreds of pages of paperwork and pictures from inner European investigations and gathered info from sources near the Paris investigation that collectively present new particulars concerning the extremely organized terror group intent on attacking abroad targets.
These paperwork reveal new details about two captured operatives who investigators consider meant to assault France. Additionally they level, chillingly, to the existence of one other suspected terrorist — by no means earlier than named publicly — who authorities declare is linked to the Paris terror cell and was on the unfastened in Europe for months after that assault. That man, recognized by authorities as Abid Tabaouni, was solely arrested in July.
And the paperwork shed new mild on the extremely organized department of ISIS dedicated to plotting assaults inside Europe the place, even now, sources informed CNN, operatives await directions from senior handlers in Syria.
“ISIS is growing its worldwide assault planning,” stated Paul Cruickshank, a CNN terrorism analyst who contributed to CNN’s investigation and editor of CTC Sentinel, a publication issued by the Combating Terrorism Middle at West Level. “It is more and more refined in the best way it does this. It is arrange an intricate, logistical help system for these terrorists … to launch these terrorist assaults.”
A CNN group spent months going by means of ninety,000 pages of paperwork, most of them in French, that included a trove of interrogations, investigative findings and knowledge pulled from cell telephones providing perception into the exterior operations wing of ISIS generally known as the Amn al-Kharji.
The paperwork present:
A senior European counter-terrorism official who spoke to CNN stated that based on investigations into the community that carried out the Paris assaults, they have been a slimmed-down model of an much more formidable plan to hit Europe.
After interrogating suspects and gathering intelligence, European investigators now consider that ISIS initially deliberate for the operatives it despatched final yr to additionally assault the Netherlands, in addition to different targets in France together with purchasing areas and probably a grocery store in Paris, the official stated.
As well as, lately obtained intelligence signifies that ISIS has stepped up efforts to infiltrate operatives into the UK to launch assaults there, an official informed CNN.
The senior European counter-terrorism official informed CNN that safety providers have been “uncovering increasingly more ISIS operatives” on continental European soil. ISIS operatives dispatched again to Europe have taken benefit of encryption, particularly the Telegram messenger app, to speak securely, the official informed CNN, irritating European safety providers.
“Encrypted messaging teams have the potential to revolutionize terror plot planning by permitting complete cells to coordinate in actual time with out compromising themselves,” stated CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank.
Europe’s safety businesses have had necessary successes, although. One main breakthrough was the seize of two males who authorities consider meant to journey to France alongside the 2 suicide bombers who ultimately blew themselves up outdoors a Paris stadium.
These two suspected ISIS operatives are recognized within the paperwork as Algerian-born Adel Haddadi and his Pakistani journey associate, Muhammad Usman.
Paperwork that element their seize and in depth interrogations, notably with Haddadi, present how ISIS supported the attackers all through their journey from Syria by way of Europe — and the way future assaults may be organized. The next account of their journey to Europe is predicated on these paperwork, which embrace proof gathered by investigators, and their conclusions.
Haddadi and Usman, who was recognized by investigators as a suspected bombmaker for the Pakistani terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba, set out from the capital of the self-declared ISIS caliphate in Raqqa, Syria, six weeks earlier than the Paris assaults.
They have been a part of a staff, investigators concluded. The 2 others, Ahmad al-Mohammad and Mohamad al-Mahmod, would later blow themselves up outdoors the nationwide stadium in Paris. The group crossed the border from Syria into Turkey in early October and headed for the Turkish coast.
The 4 males did not appear to know one another’s actual names, or what their last mission can be. All Haddadi knew, he later advised interrogators, was that they have been being despatched to France to do “one thing for the great of God.”
The paperwork present that their journey was directed by a shadowy ISIS chief in Syria, recognized solely as Abu Ahmad. Working like a puppet-grasp from afar, Abu Ahmad dealt with their logistics: connecting them with smugglers and automobiles for transport, offering pre-programmed cell telephones and getting them pretend Syrian passports.
He wired them cash as they moved, utilizing intermediaries who could not be traced, and communicated utilizing encrypted apps.
“Abu Ahmad … is vital in sending these people, at the least the foreigners, into the Paris assaults,” stated Jean-Charles Brisard, president and chairman of the French Middle for the Evaluation of Terrorism, who reviewed the paperwork for CNN.
“He’s the one who recruited them, who funds them, who educated them,” stated Brisard. “He was all the time in touch with them.”
All through their journey, Abu Ahmad gave the lads solely sufficient cash and knowledge to get to the subsequent cease, not often if ever telling them what would occur subsequent, the paperwork present.
The paperwork reveal recent particulars about their journey and the best way they posed as Syrian refugees, mixing in with hundreds fleeing the warfare-torn nation.
They made the treacherous crossing from Izmir, Turkey, into Greece in a ship full of dozens of refugees. However they have been then intercepted by the Greek Navy.
The 2 who would go on to strike the Paris stadium handed by way of Greece and began shifting throughout Europe towards their goal in France. Greek officers declined to elucidate how the 2 received via.
However Greek authorities found Haddadi and Usman’s pretend Syrian passports. The pair have been arrested, their cash was taken, they usually have been held for almost a month.
Sources informed CNN that investigators consider that delay was vital; in consequence, they might not have an opportunity to turn into a part of the Paris assaults.
The Greeks launched Haddadi and Usman in late October. They instantly contacted their ISIS handler, Abu Ahmad, who organized for somebody to wire them 2,000 euros. Flush with money, the pair continued alongside the refugee route.
It was doubtless a quiet journey.
The paperwork present that Usman spoke solely Urdu, whereas Haddadi spoke principally Arabic. And as they travelled north, Usman was preoccupied with a strikingly un-Islamic pastime — utilizing his telephone to peruse virtually two dozen X-rated websites, together with “sexxx lahur” and “Pakistani Lahore school women … ImakeSex.”
Each males’s telephones have given European officers wealthy investigative veins to mine, revealing dozens of contacts throughout Europe and the Center East.
One of many individuals Haddadi reached out to for assist was a technician at one of the crucial necessary nuclear analysis facilities in Europe. That man was positioned underneath fast remark by French authorities, the paperwork present.
Knowledge pulled from the telephones additionally revealed how the operatives functioned each with excessive care and typically, seemingly, by the seat of their pants. In a single change, Haddadi asks a contact for recommendation about what to do at a border crossing and whether or not a pal ought to use his actual identify. The good friend is so apprehensive about this, Haddadi gripes that he is “driving me loopy.”
Different on-line conversations, notably with Abu Ahmad, are clearly in code. One message investigators pulled from Haddadi’s telephone exhibits the ISIS handler counseling endurance, although the precise which means of his message is not clear. “Sure, however not but,” it reads, “the medicine usually are not good.”
On November 14, the day after the Paris assaults, Haddadi and Usman arrived in Salzburg, Austria, utilized for asylum and settled into one of many metropolis’s refugee facilities, the place they waited for weeks.
They have been ready with a objective, in accordance with the paperwork.
European investigators concluded that Haddadi and Usman have been a part of the identical terror cell because the Paris bombers and, having did not take part in that bloody day, have been planning one other strike.
Investigators discovered that within the days earlier than their arrest, Haddadi and Usman have been researching trains to Paris and making a flurry of telephone calls abroad, together with to contacts in Belgium and France.
The paperwork additionally reveal that investigators consider that Haddadi and Usman have been ready for a 3rd man to hitch them — Abid Tabaouni.
Tabaouni’s identify and his alleged position have by no means earlier than been made public.
As investigators grilled Haddadi and pored via knowledge they collected from cell telephones, they requested European police to problem a continent-broad warrant for Tabaouni’s arrest.
Like Usman and Haddadi, Tabaouni traveled from Syria alongside the refugee route, arriving in Salzburg on December 10. He headed to the refugee middle the place Haddadi and Usman have been staying.
The paperwork define what occurred subsequent: The very day that Tabaouni arrived, Austrian safety officers thundered into the middle, arresting Haddadi, Usman and some others suspected of being related to the Paris attackers.
Tabaouni was nowhere to be seen. However investigators discovered his cellular phone charging proper beside Haddadi’s mattress.
The paperwork present that Tabaouni had programmed into his telephone a quantity linked to the fear cell of the ringleader of the Paris assaults, Abdelhamid Abaaoud. He had additionally saved a photograph of ISIS fighters standing earlier than their black-and-white flag.
Haddadi denied understanding Tabaouni, however investigators discovered Tabaouni had saved Haddadi’s telephone quantity in his contacts. The telephone additionally contained a photograph taken simply half-hour earlier than safety officers stormed the refugee middle. It exhibits Tabaouni sitting on a mattress in between the place Haddadi and Usman slept.
The investigators lay out within the paperwork their perception that Tabaouni was coming to hitch Haddadi and Usman and that the three males have been engaged on ISIS operations and planning attainable assaults.
CNN sources and analysts agree about Tabaouni’s possible position.
“We will assume that Tabaouni was additionally a part of the identical plot,” stated Brisard, the French terror professional. “And (that he) was instructed to hold out an assault.”
From the second he slipped away in December, Tabaouni was a needed man, in response to a number of CNN sources.
The Belgian prosecutor’s workplace advised CNN that Tabaouni, who’s Moroccan, was solely arrested in Brussels in July. He was taken into custody as quickly as he was situated, based on a senior European terrorism official. Following the publication of an earlier model of this story, Austrian media, citing prosecutors, have reported that Tabaouni has been extradited to Austria.
Haddadi and Usman have been extradited to France, the place they face terrorism fees, in response to senior European counterterrorism sources, who additionally say they are going to be making an attempt to tie Tabaouni to Haddadi and Usman and the Paris attackers.
Whereas he was on the unfastened, Tabaouni was brazenly utilizing a Fb account that’s recognized within the paperwork by its distinctive ID quantity and was publicly posting updates from Belgium, the place he was arrested. None of his postings point out any obvious terrorist leanings or affiliations.
Investigators at the moment are analyzing greater than 1,600 pages of knowledge from Tabaouni’s telephone in hopes of studying extra about his actions and contacts.
A number of sources advised CNN there are in all probability extra sleeper cells and ISIS operatives coming into Europe utilizing the identical crowded, chaotic refugee route exploited by Haddadi, Usman and Tabaouni.
“We have seen that within the current weeks, a number of of them, people who perform particular person assaults, impressed assaults, have been getting back from Syria utilizing the identical route,” Brisard stated.
“Along with that, a number of jihadists have been arrested throughout in France … in Belgium and Germany utilizing the identical route, for a similar function,” Brisard stated.
The treasure trove of data that investigators gained from the interrogations and the info extracted from the telephones might assist authorities higher determine future plotters. Even after the arrests in Austria, Haddadi’s telephone was nonetheless lively.
On December 15, 5 days after the refugee middle raid, the paperwork present that the workforce’s ISIS handler, Abu Ahmad, reached out to his operatives. He messaged Haddadi, maybe questioning about their silence.
“How are you,” he wrote. “What has turn into of you?”
There was no reply.
CNN’s Patricia DiCarlo and Meghan Puryear contributed to this report.
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