Paris attacks: Ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud 'slipped away' from Greek police in January

Abdelhamid Abaaoud was believed to be the orchestrator of the Paris attacks Reuters

The suspected ringleader of the Paris attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, managed to evade capture from Greek police in January, according to reports. The January operation took place after authorities learned that Abaaoud had been directing a Belgian terror cell from the Greek capital, Athens.

Abaaoud was marked as a target and the operation in Athens was set to take place before anti-terror raids in Verviers, but that did not happen, an unnamed Belgian anti-terror source told the BBC. Just days after the Charlie Hebdo killings, Belgian authorities launched an anti-terror operation in Verviers on a group of men who were planning to decapitate police officers. Two suspected terrorists were killed in the raid.

A senior Belgian police officer was in Athens leading the manhunt with the collaboration of Greek anti-terror units. According to the unnamed officer quoted by the BBC, attempts to track him down to a city centre square using the signal of his mobile did not succeed.

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On 17 January - two days after Verviers - Greek police conducted raids on two flats in the capital, where traces of Abaaoud's DNA were recovered. Neighbour Vasilis Katsanos said that he had spotted Abaaoud on the street on at least two occasions. The samples recovered from both properties matched those recovered from Abaaoud's corpse after he was killed by French security officials in Saint-Denis.

Abaaoud, 27, died in a gunfight with French police five days after the Paris attacks on 13 November, which killed 130 people. He was the alleged orchestrator of the attacks and had been linked in four out of six botched attacks in France. The Belgian of Moroccan origin was sentenced to 20 years in prison in absentia.

According to the BBC report, fugitive Salah Abdeslam is another link between Greece and the Paris attacks. Belgian-born Abdeslam - who is still being hunted by authorities - travelled from Italy to Greece via ferry on 1 August and left three days later.

The failed Athens operations raises questions on how countries can create a better system of sharing intelligence information and closer cooperation between counter-terrorism units in different European countries.

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