Paris attacks: Hasna Aitboulahcen didn’t blow herself up

  • 21/11/2015
Paris attacks: Hasna Aitboulahcen didn’t blow herself up

By Leigh Thomas and Gerard Bon

Police watched the suspected mastermind of the Paris attacks being led by a woman into an apartment the evening before both died there in a raid by special forces, a police source has revealed.

After a tip-off from Morocco that Abdelhamid Abaaoud, one of Islamic State's most high-profile European recruits, was in France, police honed in on Hasna Aitboulahcen, a woman already under surveillance who was known to have links to him.

Police tapping her phone as part of a drugs investigation tracked her to the St Denis suburb north of Paris, also home to the stadium where three suicide bombers blew themselves up during last Friday's attacks that killed 130 people.

They watched the 26-year-old woman take Abaaoud into the St Denis building on Tuesday evening (local time). In the early hours of Wednesday, police launched an assault that lasted seven hours.

Abaaoud, 28, and Aitboulahcen, who may be his cousin, died during the gun battle during which French police commandos fired more than 5000 shots. A third person, who has yet to be identified, died with them.

Officials initially said Aitboulahcen had blown herself up, becoming Europe's first female suicide bomber, but a source close to the investigation said on Friday that a head blasted into the street by an explosive vest was not hers.

One of the police sources also said Abaaoud had been caught on camera at a suburban metro station, after the shootings and at cafes and restaurants in central Paris but while a massacre in the Bataclan concert hall was still under way.

He was seen on closed circuit TV at the Croix de Chavaux station in Montreuil, not far from where one of the cars used in the attacks was found, the source said.

In response to the Paris attacks, French police carried out raids across the country for a fifth day overnight on Thursday.

Abaaoud was spotted on the metro station CCTV tape at 10.14pm on Friday last week after the initial wave of attacks. Seven assailants died and a suspected eighth person, Salah Abdeslam, is still on the run.

Abaaoud was a petty criminal who went to fight in Syria in 2013 and European governments thought he was still there until Morocco said he was in France.

His own family has disowned him, accusing him of abducting his 13-year-old brother, who was later promoted on the internet as Islamic State's youngest foreign fighter in Syria.

EU interior and justice ministers in Brussels have pledged solidarity with France in the wake of the attacks and agreed a series of new measures on surveillance, border checks and gun control.

The 28 governments agreed to speed new legislation to share air passengers' data, curb firearms trafficking and ensure closer checks on EU citizens crossing Europe's external borders.