Charaffe al Mouadan, one of 10 Islamic State leaders killed by US-led air strikes in the past month, was close to Paris attacker Samy Amimour and paved the way for him to leave France for Syria, the mayor of the French city where both grew up said.
An air strike in Syria on December 24 killed al Mouadan, US US Army Colonel Steve Warren said, adding that he was directly associated with Abdelhamid Abaaoud, suspected ringleader of the Nov. 13 Paris shootings and bombings that killed 130 people.
Jean-Christophe Lagarde, the mayor of Drancy, a northeastern suburb of Paris, said al Mouadan was also connected to Amimour, a 28-year-old former bus driver who blew himself up in Paris's Bataclan concert hall.
"They were arrested in 2012 when they planned to leave for Yemen and were placed under judicial supervision," Lagarde told Reuters in a telephone interview, adding that a third man was part of their group.
"He (al Mouadan) was the first to leave for Syria, in June or July 2013. The other two left about two months later. He paved the way. What I don't understand is that (al Mouadan) missed police check-ins for two months and no one reacted, no one went after the other two."
Lagarde said he did not personally know al Mouadan but that he knew Amimour's family. "What Amimour's family told me is that he (al Mouadan) seemed to be the leader of their group of three people," he said, and the family had said al Mouadan rose in Islamic State ranks more than the other two.
While some French media have said they were childhood friends, Lagarde said he had heard that al Mouadan and Amimour did not meet before becoming radicalised in 2011. Al Mouadan lived in a middle-class, residential district, midway between Drancy city centre and the train station, Lagarde said, insisting that this was not an underprivileged area. His family was originally from Morocco, Lagarde added.
The mayor's remarks helped to flesh out a picture of who was killed in the US-led strikes and their links to the Paris attacks. Another of those killed in the air strikes was Abdul Qader Hakim, who facilitated Islamic State's external operations and had links to the Paris attack network, Warren said. Hakim was killed in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Dec. 26.
Amimour himself missed at least four weekly check-ins with French police who were investigating him on suspicion of terrorism-related activity. After nearly a month, French authorities put out the warrant for his arrest but he was already in Syria.
At least eight of the Paris attackers are dead, with seven killed on November 13 and one, the alleged ringleader Abaaoud, a few days later in a police raid in Brussels. The number involved in the attacks may have been 10 or higher and at least four people continue to be sought.