02:40 GMT16 May 2021
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    New details are emerging about the attackers who launched attacks on Paris last week – and for self-proclaimed religious zealots, they used a lot of drugs and alcohol.

    First, there are the Abdeslam brothers, Brahim and Salah. Both men ran a bar in Brussels called Les Beguines, and were known to partake – fairly heavily – in substances typically frowned upon by the self-proclaimed Islamic State terrorist group.

    "We’re still in shock," a local man named Youssef told Agence France-Presse. "They were friends of ours, big smokers, big drinkers, but not radicals."

    Not only were drugs present at Les Beguines, but it was apparently shut down by Belgian authorities.

    "There was a strong odor of drugs and the ashtrays contained partly smoked joints," a closure notice read, according to AFP, adding that the site was "used for the consumption of banned hallucinogenic substances."

    "On Fridays (when Muslims hold their main weekly prayers) they would stay smoking on the terrace. I never saw them at the mosque," said Karim, a young man who lived above the bar, told AFP.

    "They weren’t practicing Muslims. They didn’t have big beards, they wore jeans and sneakers, and they drank their Jupiler like everyone else," another friend of the brothers said, referring to a popular brand of Belgian beer.

    "Their lives were the same as all young people: they liked football, going clubbing, coming back with girls."

    Brahim was one of the suicide bombers in Friday’s attacks, while Salah is the focus of a massive manhunt for his alleged role in the tragedy.

    Family and friends say that the Abdeslam brothers were likely radicalized by Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected mastermind behind the massacre. But Abaaoud, killed during a police raid on Wednesday morning, doesn’t appear to have been especially devout, either.

    Growing up in the Brussel’s neighborhood of Molenbeek, Abaaoud attended an exclusive Catholic school before being arrested for petty robbery in 2011. French authorities also suspect that Abaaoud was responsible for teaching the Abdeslam brothers the concept of taqiyya – IS’ strategy that coaches would-be "martyrs" to disguise their religious affiliations by partaking in drugs and alcohol.

    Of course, much of this should come as no surprise, given that these men blatantly violated Islamic principles by killing 129 innocent people in cold blood. Equally shocked by Friday’s tragedy is France’s Muslim population.

    "Most Muslims are trying to wrap their heads around why anyone would do such a thing," a Moroccan-French mother told the Intercept, "just the way everyone else is."


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    Daesh, Paris attacks, Brahim Abdeslam, Salah Abdeslam, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, Molenbeek, Syria, Paris, Brussels, Belgium, France
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