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Leader of Paris attacks returned to the scenes and mingled with police

By John Lichfield

Published 25/11/2015

Attack: Abdelhamid Abaaoud
Attack: Abdelhamid Abaaoud

The leader of the Paris terror attacks returned to the scenes of the atrocities and mingled with police, rescue workers and journalists, it emerged last night.

Abdelhamid Abaaoud (29), who died when police stormed his hideout north of Paris six days later, joined the crowd outside the Bataclan concert hall where 89 people were killed.

He also revisited the restaurant and cafe terraces where he had helped murder 40 people, Paris prosecutor François Molins revealed. Abaaoud's ghoulish movements have been pieced together from phone calls he made during the evening, Mr Molins said.

French investigators have also confirmed that Abaaoud, along with an unidentified man who died when police stormed their hideout in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis, had been planning another terror attack on the La Defense office district just west of the city.

Meanwhile, a suicide belt found in a suburban dustbin south of Paris offered fresh evidence that Europe's most wanted man panicked or baulked at committing a further atrocity on the night of Friday, November 13. The belt, packed with volatile explosives and metal bolts, was identical to those used by the seven other terrorists who blew themselves up that night.

French investigators believe that fugitive Salah Abdeslam (26) dumped the belt in the dustbin in Montrouge in the early hours of the Saturday following the attacks. Abdeslam, believed to be still on the run in Belgium, made a mobile telephone call from Montrouge a few hours before he was "rescued" by two friends from Brussels at 5am on the Saturday.

The detonating device on the suicide belt had been disconnected, investigators say, suggesting that Abdeslam deliberately rejected the kamikaze fate of seven of the other attackers, including his brother, Ibrahim.

"It is still possible that the explosive belt failed but that now appears less likely," a source in the investigation said. "Abdeslam seems to have failed to go through with his mission, which suggests that he is on the run from Islamic State as much as from every police force in Europe."

It also emerged that Abdeslam had been filmed by a security camera at a petrol station at Ressons, north of Paris, two days before the attacks, with a Belgian man of Moroccan origin. A European and international arrest warrant has been issued by Belgian police for his companion - named as Mohamed Abrini (30).

Seven of the 10 attackers in Paris died on the night. Two others, including Abdelhamid Abaaoud were among the three killed when an elite police team stormed their building.

Meanwhile, a hostage-taking incident in the northern French town of Roubaix ended with all the captives declared safe. It was initially linked to terrorism, but local reports said it was the result of a robbery gone wrong.

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