Paris attacks: Belgian mayor 'had list of Isis terrorists including mastermind and gunmen' month before massacres

Françoise Schepmans said it was 'not her job' to track possible terrorists

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The Independent Online

Belgian authorities allegedly had a list of suspected jihadists including the “mastermind” of the Paris attacks and the two brothers who carried them out – a month before the massacre took place.

Françoise Schepmans, the mayor of the Molenbeek district of Brussels where several of the Isis extremists had lived, was allegedly handed the names and addresses of more than 80 people believed to be Islamist militants, the New York Times reported.

“What was I supposed to do about them? It is not my job to track possible terrorists,” Ms Schepmans reportedly said in an interview, claiming it was “the responsibility of the federal police”.

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Speaking to Europe 1 radio today, she admitted a “terrorist network was formed in Molenbeek” and that fundamentalism had been growing in the suburb since the 1970s.

“It is up to state security services to control what preachers are saying,” she added. “The municipal authority has different tasks.”

Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who was killed in a police raid in Saint-Denis last week, was believed to have orchestrated the attacks that killed 130 people on 13 November.

The 28-year-old was already known to have left for Syria to fight for Isis in early 2014 and had been prosecuted in absentia for recruiting extremists, as well as being linked to several failed terror plots.

Abdelhamid Abaaoud boasted of his escape from authorities in Belgium following a failed terrorist attack in an interview published in Isis' propaganda magazine in February

He was associated with Paris suicide bomber Brahim Abdeslam and his younger brother Salah, who is still on the run for authorities after possibly deciding against blowing himself up and dumping his explosive vest in a bin before fleeing the French capital.

Francois Molins, the Paris public prosecutor, revealed more findings in the continuing investigation yesterday, saying phone records showed Abaaoud was at the Bataclan concert hall where 90 people were killed as the operation to free hostages continued.

French authorities believe the jihadist, who had boasted about his repeated escapes from security services in an Isis propaganda magazine, was preparing a new attack on Paris’ La Defence business district days later.

Mr Molins said the plot could have been carried out on 18 or 19 November but was stopped by the police raid on the Saint-Denis apartment where Abaaoud was sheltering with his cousin and at least one other militant.

Police originally said Hasna Ait Boulahcen had killed herself in a suicide bombing but later said the explosive vest was detonated by a third person who has not been identified.

DNA from that person matched that found on a Kalashnikov rifle left in a black Seat Léon used by the restaurant attackers.

Mr Molins also said Salah Abdeslam was filmed in a petrol station in Ressons with a man identified as Mohamed Abrini, 30, on 11 November.

A European and international arrest warrant has been issued against Abrini and authorities have warned that he is “dangerous” and “probably armed”.

Additional reporting by agencies