PARIS — A French Islamic State extremist has emerged as a link among at least four plots to attack France since June, three people with knowledge of the investigation said.
The precise role of the radical, Rachid Kassim, is under investigation, but the officials say he is a key operative who directs recruits in encrypted forums on how and where to carry out the Islamic State’s call for European Muslims to strike at home.
Most recently, he was believed to be in contact with a 19-year-old who was among the French women who failed in their attempt to detonate a car bomb and kill police.
Kassim, 29, is from the Loire River town of Roanne, and is now believed to be in either Syria or Iraq, according to officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Kassim’s virtual tracks were found as early as the June 14 knifing of two police officials at their home in the Paris suburb of Magnanville, in which the killer left behind not only a video that he had streamed on
Facebook Live but a hit list of politicians, journalists, and public figures.
That list is believed to have been drawn up by Kassim, one of the officials said. Attacker Larossi Abballa was shot to death when police stormed the home to rescue the dead couple’s 3-year-old child.
Kassim then became the public face of Islamic State’s claim of responsibility for the July 14 truck attack on Nice that left 86 people dead, appearing in a video in which he threatened France and beheaded a captive in Iraq.
He appeared to have a role in the July killing of an elderly priest in the Normandy town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray.
And this past weekend, a 15-year-old boy was arrested at his Paris home to thwart what authorities feared was a planned weekend attack — yet another person under investigation for possible links to Kassim.