PARIS — The mastermind believed to be behind the coordinated terror attacks that killed over 130 Parisians on Friday died during Wednesday’s pre-dawn raid on an apartment building in a suburb of Paris, officials have confirmed.
Abdelhamid Abaaoud, 28, was originally believed to have been in Syria, but officials were tipped that he was holed up in an apartment building in Saint Denis. The 110-member mission to apprehend Abaaoud was carried out after 4:00 am on Wednesday.
As previously reported, as police descended on the building, one woman detonated a suicide vest after being asked by authorities, “Where is your boyfriend?”
“He’s not my boyfriend!” she exclaimed, and then blew herself up moments later.
The woman has now been identified as Hasna Aitboulahcen, 26, a cousin of Abaaoud.
Residents reported hearing gunfire and explosions as approximately 5,000 rounds of ammunition were fired by police. An unspecified number of officers were injured in the exchange of gunfire, and terrorists shot and killed a police dog named Deisel.
“I awoke to an explosion,” a woman who lives below the flat told local television station BMF-TV. “After that I heard gun shots and there was lots of shooting. The terrorists were fighting at the police and the police were firing back.”
“There were shots, explosions. We didn’t know where to go. My son and I were in panic,” she continued. “There was dust falling from the ceiling because of the explosions. I kept shouting, ‘If you’re from the police, please help me. I’m here with my baby.’ But they kept shooting and shooting.”
Abaaoud has now been positively identified as his body was removed from the apartment building Wednesday afternoon. It is not clear how he died.
The Muslim mastermind behind the murderous attacks at a soccer game, concert hall and at least two restaurants last week is believed to have been involved in coordinating a number of thwarted terror attacks, including a plot to kill passengers on a train to Paris in August. The scheme was foiled by three Americans in the country.
Some believe that after Friday’s massacre, Abaaoud was planning an attack on La Defense, the business district in Paris.
“We are at war against terrorism, terrorism which declared war on us,” French President Francois Hollande said on Wednesday. “It is the [Islamic State] jihadist organization. It has an army. It has financial resources. It has oil. It has a territory.”
“It has allies in Europe, including in our country, with young, radicalized Islamist people,” he continued. “It committed atrocities there and wants to kill here. It has killed here.”