France changed its military strategy and started airstrikes in Syria last year because of concerns months before the attacks on Paris that ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud was plotting to target a concert and take hostages, according to a French newspaper report.
The report in Friday’s Le Parisien, citing French and Belgian intelligence material and police recordings, lists repeated occasions when authorities allegedly failed to catch Abaaoud, even though he had been considered a major threat by several European intelligence services before the Nov. 13 attacks that left 130 dead in the French capital.
U.S. intelligence was also onto Abaaoud. President Barack Obama’s envoy for the anti-Islamic State coalition, Brett McGuirk, said Friday that at as soon as he heard about the Paris attacks “we all assumed this was probably something that was planned by Abaaoud” from the Syrian IS stronghold of Raqqa. Speaking to reporters in Brussels, McGuirk described the Paris attacks as unusually sophisticated.
Abaaoud was killed in a police raid five days after the attacks by IS suicide bombers on a concert, stadium and cafes. Most of those killed in the Paris attacks were hostages in the Bataclan concert hall.