The man initially believed to have masterminded the Paris attacks was only a "coordinator" and French intelligence has now discovered the true identity of the terrorist leader behind the massacre.

Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian-Moroccan killed by police five days after the November 13 atrocities, was only a go-between, not a senior figure, the head of France's external intelligence agency told a parliamentary inquiry.

"We know the mastermind but I will remain discreet on this point," Bernard Bajolet testified to a committee of MPs, it has emerged.

Security sources said the Isis commander who ordered the attacks remains at large.


They declined to specify his name or whereabouts but said every effort was being made to capture him.

Bajolet said it had become clear that Abaaoud, 28, did not plan the strikes on the Bataclan concert hall, bars, restaurants and the national stadium, the Stade de France, which left 130 dead and hundreds injured.

Bajolet appeared before the parliamentary committee in May, but its 300-page report, including his testimony, was only made public this week.

The disclosure came as members of an elite corps of French gendarmes accused their commander of cowardice for failing to lead his men into the line of fire during the attacks.

In a trenchant letter addressed to the head of the gendarmerie - a military force charged with police duties - soldiers of the GIGN special operations unit expressed contempt for their commanding officer, Colonel Hubert Bonneau.

It said the colonel's failure to dispatch the GIGN to the Bataclan, where three gunmen slaughtered 90 people, had "traumatised" the majority of the 400-strong force.

"Colonel Bonneau quite simply forgot to be a gendarme. We are ashamed of him and we are ashamed of ourselves," said the letter in the weekly newspaper Le Canard Enchaine.

The Bataclan operation was eventually carried out by special police forces rather than the soldiers of the gendarmerie. There was a lack of coordination between police and soldiers in responding to the attacks, it emerged from the parliamentary inquiry.