The family of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected ringleader of the Paris terrorist attacks, prayed that he would be killed in battle to spare innocent people from further violence.
Abaaoud's older sister said in January that his family had rejoiced after receiving word that he had been killed fighting for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. "We are praying that
Abdelhamid really is dead," she said at the time.
But the family's hopes were dashed. In fact, their son was heading back to Europe to plot acts of terror.
Abaaoud, 29, was described as a happy-go-lucky student who went to one of the best high schools in Brussels, Saint-Pierre d'Uccle. His father, Omar, is a grocer in the Molenbeek district of the Belgian capital.
However, Abaaoud is linked to several previous attacks in France, and police missed an opportunity to arrest him earlier this year when they allowed him to escape to Syria. He claims to have been stopped by an official who failed to recognise him.
Abaaoud is said to have planned the Paris atrocities from Syria, where he was fighting with Isil. He is reported to have been on a list of targets for French airstrikes since September.
He has been used as a major recruiting tool by Isil to attract other Belgians to the terrorist network, and enjoys boasting about his exploits, appearing in a video smiling at the wheel of a pick-up truck taking eight mutilated bodies to a mass grave. He is reported to have taken his 13-year-old brother Younes with him to Syria in January last year.
Intelligence failures appear to have allowed Abaaoud to act with impunity. He travelled to Syria in 2013, then returned to Belgium via Greece. He was able to leave Belgium undetected and return to Syria, a round trip he made several other times, he says.
He is related to Ibrahim Abdeslam, one of the suicide bombers in Friday's attack, and in 2010 spent time in jail with Abdeslam's brother Salah, a childhood friend and now Europe's most wanted man after going on the run after the attacks.
Abaaoud was the main target of a police raid on a terrorist cell in Verviers, Belgium, in January in which two jihadists were killed. It was carried out within days of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, though police said the two events were not linked.
He was sentenced to 20 years in absentia along with 32 other jihadists. The Belgian cell was said to have been planning a major terrorist attack, including abducting and beheading a prominent law enforcement official and posting a video of it online.
Police believe Abaaoud helped arrange an attack on an Amsterdam-to-Paris train on Aug 21 which was thwarted by passengers. He is also thought to have plotted an attack on a church in Paris on April 19, when Sid Ahmed Ghlam, a French IT student, was arrested after shooting himself in the leg.
According to Le Monde, Abaaoud was also in contact with Mehdi Nemmouche, who carried out an attack on the Jewish Museum in Brussels on May 24 last year, killing four people. Analysis of phone calls is said to have shown the two men spoke in January 2014.
Le Monde also claimed a French jihadist called Reda Hame, who was
arrested on August 11, named Abaaoud as the man who had sent him to Europe to carry out a terrorist attack after he had been to Syria. He said Abaaoud told him to travel via Prague to avoid being detected and gave him a USB stick containing encryption software and euros 2,000 with instructions to hit an "easy" target such as "a concert hall".