Paris and Brussels attacks bomb maker Najim Laachraoui was a key member of the ISIS gang which imprisoned British and American hostages before handing them over to executioner Jihadi John.
Belgian terrorist Laachraoui, 24, was one of two suicide bombers who attacked Brussels Airport last month. He was also involved in making at least two of the explosive devices used to attack the Bataclan concert hall and the Stade de France in Paris last year.
Now it has emerged that Laachraoui may have known British terrorist Jihadi John as he was once part of the jihadi cell who first imprisoned American journalist James Foley and British photojournalist John Cantlie in northern Syria in 2013.
Laachraoui’s group later handed over both men to Jihadi John, real name Mohammed Emwazi, who executed Foley and several other Westerners in the summer of 2014. Cantlie is still thought to be a prisoner of the Islamic State.
According to the latest edition of the terror group’s online magazine, Dabiq, Laachraoui was recruited by a senior IS terrorist called Amr al-Absi with whom ISIS claim he worked closely in northern Syria and more significantly, was responsible for capturing and imprisoning Western hostages.
Absi later became one of the first foreign jihadi leaders to pledge allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
In the propaganda magazine, ISIS describes Laachraoui, referred to as Abū Idrīs, as ‘very intelligent’ and also one of the first to pledge allegiance to Baghdadi in Syria in 2013.
The article read: ‘He began to train in order to realise his dream of returning to Europe to avenge the Muslims of Iraq and Sham (Syria) for the constant bombing by crusader warplanes.
‘Upon completing his training, he traveled the long road to France to execute his operation. It was Abū Idrīs who prepared the explosives for the two raids in Paris and Brussels.’
The three bomb attacks at the airport and metro station in Brussels killed 32 people, and 130 died in the atrocities in Paris in November.
Security sources say that it is possible that Emwazi and other members of the so-called Beatles, the name given to the British group who tortured the Western hostages, may have known Laachraoui at this time.
Certainly there was at least one British fighter among the largely Belgian contingent who carried brutal torture on Foley, Cantlie and another German prisoner.
If true, it raises the worrying possibility that British terrorists may be deeply linked to the European cell that has already carried devastating attacks against France and Belgium.
Emwazi was killed in a drone strike in Syria on November 12 last year. The following day Laachraoui and his gang launched their attacks on Paris killing 130 civilians.
It has also been reported that Belgium investigators have obtained a taped conversation between Laachraoui and a ‘foreign contact’ in which Britain was also mentioned.
Last Friday Britain’s security services made five arrests in Birmingham and Gatwick Airport–all believed to be linked to Laachraoui’s terror gang.
The arrests have raised concerns that there is a terrorist cell at large, sent from Syria, that could be targeting the UK.
According to ISIS, Laachraoui had joined the Mujahideen Shura Council, which had become a focus for Western jihadis, including Britons, travelling to Syria to fight President Bashar Al Assad in 2013.
A large number of these foreign fighters left to join ISIS when Baghdadi took charge in northern Syria.
At least 800 British jihadis have travelled to Syria, of whom 400 are back in Europe. It has been reported that one of the ringleaders of the Brussels attacks, Mohamed Abrini, visited the UK last year.