Belgian is prime suspect as commander of Paris attacks: French source

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French Authorities Identify 'Mastermind' Behind Paris Attacks

(Reuters) -- A Belgian national currently in Syria and believed to be one of Islamic State's most active operators is suspected of being behind Friday's attacks in Paris, according to a source close to the French investigation.

"He appears to be the brains behind several planned attacks in Europe," the source told Reuters of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, adding he was investigators' best lead as the person likely behind the killing of at least 129 people in Paris on Friday.

According to RTL Radio, Abaaoud is a 27-year-old from the Molenbeek suburb of Brussels, home to other members of the militant Islamist cell suspected of having carried out the attacks.

Media in Belgium said Abaaoud had been involved in a series of planned attacks in Belgium foiled by the police last January.

See photos of Abaaoud and other suspects in the attacks:

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Suspects in the Paris attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, Salah Abdeslam, Ahmad Almohammad
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Belgian is prime suspect as commander of Paris attacks: French source
This undated image made available in the Islamic State's English-language magazine Dabiq, shows Belgian Abdelhamid Abaaoud. Abaaoud the Belgian jihadi suspected of masterminding deadly attacks in Paris was killed in a police raid on a suburban apartment building, the city prosecutor's office announced Thursday Nov. 1, 2015. Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins' office said 27-year-old Abdelhamid Abaaoud was identified based on skin samples. His body was found in the apartment building targeted in the chaotic and bloody raid in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis on Wednesday. (Militant photo via AP)
This undated image made available in the Islamic State's English-language magazine Dabiq, shows Abdelhamid Abaaoud. Abaaoud, the child of Moroccan immigrants who grew up in the Belgian capital’s Molenbeek-Saint-Jean neighborhood, was identified by French authorities on Monday Nov. 16, 2015, as the presumed mastermind of the terror attacks last Friday in Paris that killed over a hundred people and injured hundreds more. (Militant Photo via AP)
This undated image taken from a Militant Website on Monday Nov. 16, 2015 showing Belgian Abdelhamid Abaaoud. A French official says Abdelhamid Abaaoud is the suspected mastermind of the Paris attacks was also linked to thwarted train and church attacks. (Militant video via AP)
Abdelhamid Abaaoud, suspected mastermind of the #ParisAttacks was "interviewed" in #ISIS's Dabiq magazine https://t.co/wSKmztFfn5
BREAKING: Third Bataclan attacker identified as Foued Mohamed-Aggad https://t.co/FYwEykV9Kp https://t.co/7g6vH7gvwH
This undated photo released late Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015, by Greece's migration policy ministry shows a registration photo from a document issued to 25-year old Ahmad Almohammad, holder of a Syrian passport found near a dead assailant in the scene of a Paris attack Friday. The document was issued on Sunday, Oct. 4 by authorities on the Greek island of Leros, where the man arrived a day earlier on a frail boat carrying migrants over from Turkey. It protects him from deportation for six months, and is the same documentation routinely issued to thousands of newly-arrived migrants. (Greek Migration Ministry via AP)
This undated photo released late Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015, by Greece's migration policy ministry shows a document issued to 25-year old Ahmad Almohammad, holder of a Syrian passport found near a dead assailant in the scene of a Paris attack Friday. The document was issued on Sunday, Oct. 4 by authorities on the Greek island of Leros, where the man arrived a day earlier on a frail boat carrying migrants over from Turkey. It protects him from deportation for six months, and is the same documentation routinely issued to thousands of newly-arrived migrants. On the right is a copy of his fingerprints, taken on Saturday, Oct. 3. (Greek Migration Policy Ministry via AP)

This undated file photo provided by French Police shows 26-year old Salah Abdeslam, who is wanted by police in connection with recent terror attacks in Paris, as police investigations continue Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. French police released the wanted notice and photo of the suspect on the run since the attacks in Paris on Friday. The notice, released on the France National Police Twitter account, says anyone seeing Salah Abdeslam, should consider him dangerous. (Police Nationale via AP)

This undated file photo released Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, by French Police shows 26-year old Salah Abdeslam, who is wanted by police in connection with recent terror attacks in Paris, as police investigations continue. The notice, released on the national police Twitter account, says anyone seeing Salah Abdeslam, should consider him dangerous and call authorities immediately. The notice reads in French: "Call for witnesses - Police are hunting a suspect : Salah Abdeslam, born on Sept. 15, 1989 Brussels, Belgium. ...Dangerous individual don't intervene yourself". (Police Nationale via AP)
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At the time, Belgian police in the town of Verviers killed two men who opened fire on them during one of about a dozen raids against an Islamist group that federal prosecutors said was about to launch "terrorist attacks on a grand scale".

At the moment of the Verviers events, Abaaoud's cellphone was located in Greece, RTL said. While there was no clear link established, French prosecutors said fingerprints from one of the suicide bombers matched the prints of a man registered in Greece in October.

In February of this year, Islamic State's online magazine Dabiq carried an interview with an Islamist bearing the name of Abdelhamid Abaaoud and boasting of having traveled through Europe unnoticed by security forces to organize attacks and procure weapons.

Abaaoud was also named in various media last year as the elder brother of a 13-year-old boy who left Belgium to become a child-fighter in Syria.

Interviewed by Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws earlier this year, their father Omar Abaaoud disowned his older son.

"Abdelhamid has brought shame to our family. Our lives are equally destroyed. Why would he want to kill innocent Belgians? Our family owes everything to this country," he said.

See photos of the scene of the deadly attacks in Paris:

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Paris terror attack scene, shootings, bombings
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Belgian is prime suspect as commander of Paris attacks: French source
A victim under a blanket lays dead outside the Bataclan theater in Paris, Friday Nov. 13, 2015. Well over 100 people were killed in a series of shooting and explosions. French President Francois Hollande declared a state of emergency and announced that he was closing the country's borders. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
Rescue workers gather at victims in the 10th district of Paris, Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. Several dozen people were killed in a series of unprecedented attacks around Paris on Friday, French President Francois Hollande said, announcing that he was closing the country's borders and declaring a state of emergency. (AP Photo/Jacques Brinon)
People run after hearing what is believed to be explosions or gun shots near Place de la Republique square in Paris on November 13, 2015. At least 18 people were killed in several shootings and explosions in Paris today, police said. AFP PHOTO / DOMINIQUE FAGET (Photo credit should read DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman is being evacuated from the Bataclan theater after a shooting in Paris, Friday Nov. 13, 2015. French President Francois Hollande declared a state of emergency and announced that he was closing the country's borders. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
A woman is being evacuated from the Bataclan theater after a shooting in Paris, Friday Nov. 13, 2015. French President Francois Hollande declared a state of emergency and announced that he was closing the country's borders. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
French President Francois Hollande arrives to visit the site of the the Bataclan theater after a shooting in Paris, Friday Nov. 13, 2015. French President Francois Hollande declared a state of emergency and announced that he was closing the country's borders. Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins says the death toll in attacks at six sites around the French capital could exceed 120. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Victims leave after a shooting, near the Bataclan theater in Paris, Friday Nov. 13, 2015. Well over 100 people were killed in a series of shooting and explosions explosions. French President Francois Hollande declared a state of emergency and announced that he was closing the country's borders. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
Investigating police officers inspect the lifeless body of a victim of a shooting attack outside the Bataclan concert hall in Paris, France, Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. Well over 100 people were killed in Paris on Friday night in a series of shooting, explosions. French President Francois Hollande declared a state of emergency and announced that he was closing the country's borders. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)
Victims lay on the pavement in a Paris restaurant, Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. Police officials in France on Friday reported a shootout in a Paris restaurant and an explosion in a bar near a Paris stadium. It was unclear if the events were linked. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Victims walk away outside the Bataclan theater in Paris, Friday Nov. 13, 2015. Well over 100 people were killed in a series of shooting and explosions explosions. French President Francois Hollande declared a state of emergency and announced that he was closing the country's borders. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
Spectators invade the pitch of the Stade de France stadium after the international friendly soccer match between France and Germany in Saint Denis, outside Paris, Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. Hundreds of people spilled onto the field of the Stade de France stadium after explosions were heard nearby during a friendly match between the French and German national soccer teams. French President Francois Hollande says he is closing the country's borders and declaring a state of emergency after several dozen people were killed in a series of unprecedented terrorist attacks. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
Supporters invade the pitch of the Stade de France stadium at the end of the international friendly soccer match between France and Germany in Saint Denis, outside Paris, Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. Hundreds of people spilled onto the field of the Stade de France stadium after explosions were heard nearby. French President Francois Hollande says he is closing the country's borders and declaring a state of emergency after several dozen people were killed in a series of unprecedented terrorist attacks. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
Spectators embrace each other as they stand on the playing field of the Stade de France stadium at the end of a friendly soccer match between France and Germany in Saint Denis, outside Paris, Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. Hundreds made their way to the pitch after explosions were heard nearby. Multiple fatal attacks throughout the city have prompted President Francois Hollande to announce he was closing the country's borders and declaring a state of emergency. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
Spectators gather on the pitch of the Stade de France stadium following the friendly football match between France and Germany in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, on November 13, 2015, after a series of gun attacks occurred across Paris as well as explosions outside the national stadium where France was hosting Germany. At least 18 people were killed, with at least 15 people killed at the Bataclan concert hall in central Paris, only around 200 metres from the former offices of Charlie Hebdo which were attacked by jihadists in January. AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFE (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)
Rescue workers help a woman after a shooting, outside the Bataclan theater in Paris, Friday Nov. 13, 2015. French President Francois Hollande declared a state of emergency and announced that he was closing the country's borders. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
A victim walks outside the Bataclan theater in Paris, Friday Nov. 13, 2015. Well over 100 people were killed in a series of shooting and explosions explosions. French President Francois Hollande declared a state of emergency and announced that he was closing the country's borders. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
PARIS, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 14: French officials and medics work near Le Petit Cambodge restaurant in the 11th district after a drive-by shooting killing 11 people, November 14, 2015, Paris, France. At least 142 people were killed deadly shootings and explosions took place in several neighbourhoods of Paris. 1,500 troops deployed in French capital says Elysse. (Photo by Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A victim is being evacuated from the Bataclan concert hall after a shooting in Paris, France, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015. Well over 100 people were killed in Paris on Friday night in a series of shooting, explosions. French President Francois Hollande declared a state of emergency and announced that he was closing the country's borders. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)
Victims lay on the pavement in a Paris restaurant, Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. Two police officials say at least 11 people have been killed in shootouts and other violence around Paris. Police have reported shootouts in at least two restaurants in Paris. At least two explosions have been heard near the Stade de France stadium, and French media is reporting of a hostage-taking in the capital. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Two men evacuate the Place de la Republique square in Paris as a police officer looks on, after several shootings on November 13, 2015. At least 18 people were killed in several shootings and explosions in Paris today, police said. AFP PHOTO / DOMINIQUE FAGET (Photo credit should read DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 13: Police survey the area of Boulevard Baumarchais after an attack in the French capital on November 13, 2015 in Paris, France. At least 18 people were killed in a series of gun attacks across Paris, as well as explosions outside the national stadium where France was hosting Germany. (Photo by Thierry Chesnot/Getty Images)
Rescuers rush to the scene following an attack in the 10th arrondissement of the French capital Paris, on November 13, 2015. At least 18 people were killed as multiple shootings and explosions hit Paris, police said. Police also said there was an ongoing hostage crisis in the Bataclan a concert hall in the French capital. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
A person is being evacuated from the Bataclan theater after a shooting in Paris, Friday Nov. 13, 2015. French President Francois Hollande declared a state of emergency and announced that he was closing the country's borders. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
A Victim of a shooting attack is treated on the pavement outside La Belle Equipe restaurant in Paris Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. Well over 100 people were killed in Paris on Friday night in a series of shooting, explosions. (Anne Sophie Chaisemartin via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
Victims of a shooting attack lay on the pavement outside La Bell Equipe restaurant in Paris Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. Well over 100 people were killed in Paris on Friday night in a series of shooting, explosions. (Anne Sophie Chaisemartin via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
People rest on a bench after being evacuated from the Bataclan theater after a shooting in Paris, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015. A series of attacks targeting young concert-goers, soccer fans and Parisians enjoying a Friday night out at popular nightspots killed over 100 people in the deadliest violence to strike France since World War II. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
PARIS, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 14: French officials and medics work near Le Petit Cambodge restaurant in the 11th district after a drive-by shooting killing 11 people, November 14, 2015, Paris, France. At least 142 people were killed deadly shootings and explosions took place in several neighbourhoods of Paris. 1,500 troops deployed in French capital says Elysse. (Photo by Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A firefighter attend to an injured person lying on a stretcher near the Bataclan concert hall in central Paris, on November 14, 2015. At least 39 people were killed in an 'unprecedented' series of bombings and shootings across Paris and at the Stade de France stadium on November 13. AFP PHOTO / DOMINIQUE FAGET (Photo credit should read DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
People are evacuated by bus, near the Bataclan concert hall in central Paris, on November 14, 2015. More than 100 people were killed in a mass hostage-taking at a Paris concert hall on November 13 and many more were feared dead in a series of bombings and shootings, as France declared a national state of emergency. AFP PHOTO / MARTIN BUREAU (Photo credit should read MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)
People are comforted after being evacuated from the Bataclan theater after a shooting in Paris, Friday Nov. 13, 2015. French President Francois Hollande declared a state of emergency and announced that he was closing the country's borders. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Investigating police officers work outside the Stade de France stadium after an explosion and after international friendly soccer match France against Germany, in Saint Denis, outside Paris, Friday Nov. 13, 2015. Multiple fatal attacks throughout the city have prompted President Francois Hollande to announce he was closing the country's borders and declaring a state of emergency. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)
President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks about attacks in Paris from the briefing room of the White House, on Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, in Washington. Obama is calling the attacks on Paris an "outrageous attempt to terrorize innocent civilians" and vows to do whatever it takes to help bring the perpetrators to justice. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 13: U.S. President Barack Obama departs the White House briefing room after delivering remarks on the recent violence taking place in Paris, France November 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. Gunfire and explosions erupted in the French capital with early casualty reports indicating at least 60 dead. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Football fans leave the Stade de France stadium following the friendly football match between France and Germany in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, on November 13, 2015, after a series of gun attacks occurred across Paris as well as explosions outside the national stadium where France was hosting Germany. At least 18 people were killed, with at least 15 people killed at the Bataclan concert hall in central Paris, only around 200 metres from the former offices of Charlie Hebdo which were attacked by jihadists in January. AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFE (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)
Soccer fans leave the Stade de France stadium after an international friendly soccer match in Saint Denis, outside Paris, Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. An explosion occurred outside the stadium. Several dozen people were killed in a series of unprecedented attacks around Paris on Friday, French President Francois Hollande said, announcing that he was closing the country's borders and declaring a state of emergency. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
French supporters invade the pitch of the Stade de France stadium at the end of the international friendly soccer match between France and Germany in Saint Denis, outside Paris, Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. Hundreds of people spilled onto the field of the Stade de France stadium after explosions were heard nearby. French President Francois Hollande says he is closing the country's borders and declaring a state of emergency after several dozen people were killed in a series of unprecedented terrorist attacks. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
Soccer fans wait on the fitch of the Stade de France stadium after an international friendly soccer match in Saint Denis, outside Paris, Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. An explosion occurred outside the stadium. Several dozen people were killed in a series of unprecedented attacks around Paris on Friday, French President Francois Hollande said, announcing that he was closing the country's borders and declaring a state of emergency. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
supporters run in panic on the pitch during the International friendly match between France and Germany on November 13, 2015 at the Stade France in Paris, France.(Photo by VI Images via Getty Images)
Police are seen outside a cafe-restaurant in 10th arrondissement of the French capital Paris, on November 13, 2015. At least 18 people were killed as multiple shootings and explosions hit Paris, police said. Police also said there was an ongoing hostage crisis in the Bataclan a concert hall in the French capital. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
RETRANSMISSION FOR ALTERNATIVE CROP - Emergency services attewnd the scene as victims lay on the pavement outside a Paris restaurant, Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. Police officials in France on Friday report multiple terror incidents, leaving many dead. It was unclear at this stage if the events are linked. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
A policeman stands behind a cordon blocking the street near the site of an attack in a restaurant in Paris on November 13, 2015. At least 18 people were killed in multiple attacks in Paris Friday, including one near the Stade de France sports stadium and another at a concert venue. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
A victim lies on the ground covered by a white sheet (Rear L) as special police work at the attack scene rue Bichat, in central Paris, early on November 14, 2015. More than 100 people were killed in a mass hostage-taking at a Paris concert hall late on November 13 and many more were feared dead in a series of bombings and shootings, as France declared a national state of emergency. AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFE (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)
Firefighters and rescuers evacuate injured people near the Bataclan concert hall in central Paris, on November 14, 2015. At least 39 people were killed in an 'unprecedented' series of bombings and shootings across Paris and at the Stade de France stadium on November 13. AFP PHOTO / DOMINIQUE FAGET (Photo credit should read DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
People are evacuated following an attack at the Bataclan concert venue in Paris, on November 13, 2015. At least 18 people were killed in multiple attacks in Paris Friday, including one near the Stade de France sports stadium. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
Forensic experts inspect the site of an attack outside the Stade de France stadium in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, early on November 14, 2015, after a series of gun attacks occurred across Paris as well as explosions outside the national stadium where France was hosting Germany. A number of people were killed and others injured in a series of gun attacks across Paris, as well as explosions outside the national stadium where France was hosting Germany. AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFE (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)
Investigating police officers work outside the Stade de France stadium after an international friendly soccer match France against Germany, in Saint Denis, outside Paris, Friday Nov. 13, 2015. Several dozen people were killed in attacks around Paris on Friday, French President Francois Hollande said, announcing that he was closing the countryâs borders and declaring a state of emergency. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
Medics stand by victims in a Paris restaurant, Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. Police officials in France on Friday reported a shootout in a Paris restaurant and an explosion in a bar near a Paris stadium. It was unclear if the events were linked. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
French President Francois Hollande is seen through the glass door after a security meeting at the Elysee palace in Paris, France, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015. French President Francois Hollande vowed to attack the Islamic State group without mercy as the jihadist group admitted responsibility Saturday for orchestrating the deadliest attacks inflicted on France since World War II. (AP Photo/Jacques Brinon)
French President Francois Hollande speaks at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015, following a series of coordinated attacks in and around Paris late Friday which left more than 120 people dead. Hollande on Saturday blamed the Islamic State group for the attacks in Paris that left at least 128 dead, calling them an "act of war". (Stephane de Sakutin/Pool Photo via AP)
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