The Islamic State (IS) deployed 60 jihadists in Europe as part of a plot to carry out attacks on five cities including London, Paris and Berlin before the carnage it unleashed in the French capital, according to a media report.
Intelligence obtained by Western security agencies before the November 13 Paris attacks indicated that Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, the head of IS’ external operations efforts, was the key figure behind the ambitious plot, CNN reported citing a senior European counter-terrorism source.
As many as 60 IS fighters had been deployed by the group to Europe to carry out attacks on five cities and had already reached European soil, the source said.
The intelligence indicated that the target cities included Paris, London, Berlin and a major population centre in Belgium. However, there was no indication the plan was to attack the cities simultaneously.
The source cautioned that the threat stream was based on intelligence which was fragmentary and difficult to verify, and it was too vague to act on.
In addition, there was no specific intelligence prior to the Paris attack on any moving parts of the plot, the report said.
“In terms of ambition, it also just pointed towards something we already knew. The IS had hardly made it a secret it sought to target Europe,” the source was quoted as saying.
He had already threatened Europe
In the year before the Paris attacks, Adnani had threatened the European countries supporting the anti-IS coalition in a series of audio messages, making specific references to France and Belgium.
And in January 2015, the Belgian police broke up a major IS plot in Belgium coordinated by Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who later became the ringleader of the Paris attacks in which jihadists slaughtered 130 people in a series of bombings and shootings.
Adnani tops target list
The source said Western intelligence agencies believe Adnani is at the heart of IS’ international attack planning. “As far as we’re concerned, he is top of our target list,” the source said.
The source said the lack of specific intelligence on any moving parts of the Paris plot has caused consternation, because it is rare for any plot to fly completely under the radar.
Western security agencies had picked up at least some specific chatter on planning, which they later realised, related to the attack, the source said.
After the Paris attacks, new attention was focused on the fragmentary intelligence indicating 60 ISIS operatives had been deployed in Europe.
Many still out there
“The worry has been that if, say, 20 were involved in the Paris attacks, there might be 40 or so still out there,” the source said.