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article imageShock, tears and shame for families of Paris attackers

By ClĂ©ment Zampa (AFP)     Nov 24, 2015 in World

It was the day after the Paris attacks and the brother of one of the suicide bombers had been glued to his TV for close to 24 hours.

He'd sat there, in shock, at his home in the southern Paris suburb of Bondoufle, watching as news outlets played and replayed images from the attacks.

"It's not true," he cried.

His brother, Omar Ismail Mostefai, has been identified as one of the gunmen who blew themselves up at the Bataclan concert hall.

In total the November 13 assaults on Paris left 130 people dead, including 90 at the Bataclan, with 350 wounded, as gunmen and suicide bombers targeted the concert hall, restaurants and a football stadium.

Mostefai's brother and the families of the other attackers -- most of them French or Belgian nationals -- must now cope with the shock and shame caused by the knowledge that their loved ones were responsible for the worst terror attack in France's history.

A picture taken in Bondoufle  in the Essone department  southeast of Paris  on November 15  2015  sh...
A picture taken in Bondoufle, in the Essone department, southeast of Paris, on November 15, 2015, shows the house of the brother of Omar Ismail Mostefai
Alain Jocard, AFP/File

Mostefai's brother has not been named, but already he has received calls from journalists trying to track down the families of the jihadists involved.

"It's crazy, this is madness," he said.

"Who can I call to find out what exactly happened?" he asked an AFP journalist that Saturday, fighting back tears.

His wife entered, looking dejected and began to say: "This is starting to worry me..."

"Enough," he interrupted. "What if it comes out that he was there and now he's dead?"

"What does this have to do with us?" she asked. "We haven't been on speaking terms for years. I want to protect my children."

Gunmen and suspects in the Paris attacks
Gunmen and suspects in the Paris attacks
S.Blanchard/V.Lefai, AFP

Later, on the phone to his mother -- who seemed to know nothing about what had happened -- he told her there was nothing to worry about, that nothing was wrong.

"I don't want to tell her nonsense and then she goes and has a heart attack," he said after hanging up.

A few minutes later, he left for the police station with his wife, where he was placed under arrest. He was later released without charge. He has stayed inside ever since, glued to the news.

He has only one thing to say about his brother now: "He became a monster."

- 'He remains our child' -

Like him, the relatives of the other attackers have been consumed by dread and horror.

There are those who recognised the propensity for violence of their siblings or children, like the mother of Bilal Hadfi, 20, one of three attackers who blew themselves up outside the Stade de France stadium during a France-Germany football friendly.

One person was killed in the attacks.

Days before the attacks, Hadfi's mother had referred to her son as a "pressure cooker" in an interview with the Belgian newspaper La Libre.

"He seemed to me like he was going to explode any minute," she said.

Yet others kept hope alive.

The father of 28-year-old Samy Amimour -- one of the Bataclan attackers -- travelled to Syria in 2013, on a failed mission to try convince his son to return to France.

An intercom indicating the Abdeslam family's apartment is pictured at the front door of a build...
An intercom indicating the Abdeslam family's apartment is pictured at the front door of a building, in Brussels' Molenbeek district on November 18, 2015
Emmanuel Dunand, AFP/File

Hasna Aitboulahcen's family, for their part, disowned her actions.

Aitboulahcen, a cousin of the attackers' alleged ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud, was killed alongside him during a police raid in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis last week.

"We have nothing to do with what's happened," her brother told AFP. "We will not justify ourselves."

For others, the problem is how to grieve for a son, daughter, sister or brother that has caused fierce suffering.

"Of course we think about the victims and their families," said Mohamed Abdeslam, a brother of two of the attackers.

Brahim Abdeslam, who was part of a unit that shot dead dozens of people at bars and restaurants in eastern Paris, detonated his explosives belt on a cafe terrasse.

The other brother, Salah Abdeslam, has become the most sought-after fugitive in Europe.

"You have to understand that we also have a mother, we have a family and despite everything he remains our child," Mohamed Abdeslam said.

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