The US has named a French Foreign Legion veteran as the long-suspected architect behind the bloody Islamic State (Isis) attacks in Brussels and Paris. Moroccan-born French citizen Abdelilah Himich, also known by his nom de guerre Abu Suleiman Al-Faransi, has been added to the US State Department's list of "specially designated global terrorists."
It has been reported since May this year that a man carrying a similar name has been sought by US authorities after climbing the ranks of Isis following the terror attacks. Himich is believed to have founded a 300-strong Islamic State "European foreign terrorist fighter cell" and reportedly helped plan the attacks.
French and American authorities believe he is 27 or 28 years old and had served six months in the French Foreign Legion. Reports say he served in Afghanistan during this time, before he went on to to run athletic clubs in Paris and then emigrating to Syria.
In November 2015, 130 people died when the extremists attacked the Bataclan concert hall in Paris, sprayed busy cafes with bullets and set off bombs outside the Stade de France. Then in March this year suicide bombers attacked Brussels airport and a metro station, killing another 32 civilians.
Himich's military experience and knowledge of the nation would have put him in a prime position to co-ordinate the attacks, despite his youth. According to the State Department not only did he plan the operations but had provided fighters for Isis operations in the self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria.
PBS News reported last month that Himich served prison time for drug running before going to Syria in 2014 and joining Isis. It spoke to counter terror officers who said he had been described as a "blond convert and a former physical education teacher".
Last month a French security source described him to The Daily Beast as the "head of overall operations for Europe". And an Isis defector, named as Abu Khaled, told the news website: "He is smart, disciplined, and well respected. A big improvement on his predecessor." The son of an imam, his French wife is believed to be expecting their third child.
The US also blacklisted Abdullah Ahmed al-Meshedani, who allegedly houses fighters for Isis warlord Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Basil Hassan, who is alleged to have shot and wounded Lars Hedegaard, a 70-year-old Danish historian, in February 2013.