The number of people linked to the Islamic State network that attacked Paris and Brussels reaches easily into the dozens, with a series of new arrests over the weekend that confirmed the cell’s toxic reach and ability to move around unnoticed in Europe’s criminal underworld.
From Belgium’s Molenbeek to Sweden’s Malmo, new names are added nearly daily to the list of hardened attackers, hangers-on, and tacit supporters of the cell that killed 130 people in Paris and 32 in Brussels. A computer abandoned by one of the Brussels suicide bombers in a trash can contained not only his will, but is beginning to give up other information as well, including an audio file indicating the cell was getting its orders directly from a French-speaking extremist in Syria, according to a police official with knowledge of the investigation.
Ten men are known to be directly involved in the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris; others with key logistical roles then — including the bomber, a logistics handler, and a hideout scout — went on to plot the attack March 22 in Brussels. But unlike Paris, at least two people who survived the attack have been taken into custody alive….
But investigators fear it may not be enough to stave off another attack. Abdelhamid Abaaoud, another Molenbeek native whose charisma made him a natural draw to many in the Brussels neighborhood after he joined IS extremists in Syria, said before his death that he returned to Europe among a group of 90 fighters from Europe and the Mideast, according to testimony from a woman who tipped police to his location.
Patrick Skinner, a former CIA case officer who is now with the Soufan Group security consultancy, described the Brussels-Paris network as a “supercell.”
“The hope was that they had died out in the Paris attacks, and obviously that’s not true,” Skinner said in an earlier interview with The Associated Press.