A Belgian anti-terrorism source confirmed to the BBC Tuesday that there was a police operation in Athens in January aimed at catching Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the man suspected of playing a key role in the organization and execution of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris.
Kathimerini reported on November 16 that Greek authorities had traced a mobile phone at the beginning of January that they believed was being used by Abaaoud to contact a terrorist cell in Belgium.
Sources told the BBC that a senior Belgian police officer had traveled to Athens to coordinate the hunt for Abaaoud with his Greek counterparts before the raid on the cell in the Belgian town of Verviers that left two jihadists dead. Greek police arrested two people in a ground-floor apartment in the Athens suburb of Pangrati two days after the raid in Belgium.
A 33-year-old Algerian man named Omar Damas was found in possession of the phone used to communicate with the Verviers cell. He was extradited to Belgium.
Kathimerini reported on November 27 that DNA collected from Abaaoud’s body in Paris after he was killed in a firefight with police matched traces found at the Pangrati apartment and another property searched by authorities in Athens.