A third gunman involved in last month’s massacre at a Paris concert hall was identified Wednesday as a Frenchman who had visited Syria, with his father saying he “would have killed him” if he had known his plans.
Foued Mohamed-Aggad, 23, blew himself up in the bloodiest of the attacks on the French capital — at the Bataclan concert venue, where 90 young music lovers were killed.
“I would have killed him myself beforehand,” his father, Said Mohamed-Aggad, told AFP after French Prime Minister Manuel Valls announced the name of the assailant.
“I have no words, I only found out this morning,” he said.
The gunman’s mother went to the police after receiving a text message from Syria at the end of last month, her lawyer Francoise Cotta told AFP.
“Your son died a martyr with his brothers on November 13,” read the message, apparently sent by Foued’s wife in Syria.
The two other Bataclan attackers — Omar Ismail Mostefai, 29, and former Paris bus driver Samy Amimour, 28 — were also French-born and had been to Syria.
Mohamed-Aggad’s brother, Karim, went to Syria with him in 2013 but returned to France in May “because he couldn’t take it there,” the lawyer said. He is currently in prison awaiting trial on terror charges.
By contrast, Foued told his mother he was “married and very happy and had just had a child”.
“For him there was no question of coming back to France. He said he wanted to die as a suicide bomber in Iraq. The family had not heard from him since August,” said Cotta.
After getting the text message, his mother was “terror-struck by the idea that he could have been one of the suicide attackers at the Bataclan” so she went straight to the police, the lawyer said.
“If she had not helped like that, they might never have been able to identify Foued,” Cotta said.
– On police radar –
Two of the Bataclan assailants, including Mohamed-Aggad, blew themselves up with suicide belts packed with explosives after the killing spree, while the third was shot dead by police who stormed the venue with hundreds of people still inside.
Mohamed-Aggad was identified at the end of last week after his DNA matched a sample offered by his mother, Cotta said.
A neighbour in the small town of Wissembourg, north of Strasbourg, told AFP that Mohamed-Aggad had lived with his mother — who was estranged from his father — until he left for Syria.
“He was a very nice boy, but easily influenced,” his former football coach Denis Theilmann told AFP, while his friends remembered him as someone who liked to get drunk and stoned.
He had been on the radar of French security services as a potential extremist, a judicial source said, and had probably travelled to Syria on false papers.
Mohamed-Aggad was one of 10 men from his town to go to Syria. Two were killed and the rest are being held on terror charges after returning in May 2014.
His brother Karim told police he was the last of the group to “succeed in getting away” and was “worried about his brother who stayed on after his wife arrived”, fearing he would be “held to account for the departure of the rest of the group”.
Police suspect the Strasbourg group was recruited by Mourad Fares, a 31-year-old Frenchman considered a key online recruiter for the Islamic State (IS) group who was arrested in August 2014 in Turkey and handed over to French authorities.
– 2,500 raids –
Those who returned told investigators they were horrified by what they had witnessed.
All claimed to have gone to do humanitarian work but prosecutors believe they intended to fight for IS, which claimed responsibility for the carnage in Paris.
A huge manhunt is still under way for one of the suspects in the Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, a French national who has been living in Belgium and whose brother Brahim blew himself up outside a bar. Three other suspected accomplices are also still at large.
Police have carried out some 2,500 raids and placed more than 350 people under house arrest since a state of emergency was announced in the wake of last month’s attacks, the interior ministry said Wednesday.
They have seized 398 weapons, including 39 “weapons of war”.
Nearly 1,500 people were watching Californian band Eagles of Death Metal play at the Bataclan when the gunmen opened fire. A further 40 people were killed in a string of coordinated attacks in and around Paris on the same evening.