Salim Benghalem, an ISIS executioner and recruiter, who had been sentenced to 15 years in jail in absentia by a French court, had been on America’s official terrorist blacklist since 2014.
The 38-year-old jihadist’s death was reported by France Info radio reported on Wednesday and confirmed by his family, who say they were shown a picture of his dead body by a “trusted source” on May 10.
He died in November 2017, they said.
The DGSI, France’s internal security agency, was also made aware of his death but remain “cautious” in light of the lack of substantive evidence, such as a DNA test or an official death certificate, according to France Info.
Mr Benghalem was added to the US State Department’s official terrorist blacklist in September 2014, where he was listed as a “foreign terrorist fighter” and described as a “Syria-based extremist and ISIS [Islamic State] member who carried out executions on behalf of the group”.
The radical Islamist, who fled France to join the jihad movement in Syria in 2013, was identified as the real mastermind of the deadly suicide bombings and shootings that left 130 dead and hundreds wounded in Paris on Friday November 13, 2015.
French counter-terrorism officials had initially identified Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a 27-year-old Belgian extremist, as the brains behind the attack, but soon discovered Benghalem was higher up the ISIS chain of command and had ordered the Belgian youth to carry out the massacre.
In January 2016, Benghalem, who was of Algerian origin, was sentenced to 15 years in jail in absentia by a Paris court for recruiting and sending fighters to Syria on behalf of ISIS.
He has long been known to French intelligence officials and was widely implicated in several attacks on French soil.
The ISIS militant was also the leader of the notorious Buttes-Chaumont terrorist network that included Said and Cherif Kouachi, the brothers who carried out the deadly January 2015 attack on the Charlie Hebdo Newsroom in Paris.
Shortly after the attack, Mr Benghalem appeared on an ISIS propaganda video praising the Kouachi brothers and calling on ISIS supporters to launch attacks on French soil as “lone wolves”.
He was radicalised while serving a sentence for attempted murder at Paris’ Fresnes prison, where he spent six years.
Source : EXPRESS