Suspected Architect of Paris Attacks Is Dead, According to Two Senior Intelligence Officials

Anthony Faiola et al., Washington Post, November 18, 2015

French police commandos stormed a Paris apartment on Wednesday in a pre-dawn raid aimed at snaring the alleged ringleader of last week’s deadly terrorist attacks, triggering a firefight that left at least two suspects dead and underscored France’s vulnerability despite a widening crackdown.

More than 100 police and soldiers laid siege to the building during a seven-hour standoff that killed at least two people, including the suspected overseer of the Paris bloodshed, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian extremist who had once boasted he could slip easily between Europe and the Islamic State strongholds in Syria.

Paris prosecutor Francois Molins, speaking to reporters hours after the siege, said a discarded cell phone helped identify a series of safe houses used by attackers to plan Friday’s coordinated assaults, which killed 129 people and wounded over 300 across Paris.

Speaking to reporters, Molins suggested the death toll could rise, and declined to identify those who were killed. But two senior European officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, confirmed that Abaaoud was killed in the raid.

Speaking to reporters, Molins said the safe houses indicated “a huge logistics plan, meticulously carried out.”


The target of the raid, an apartment building in the Saint-Denis suburb, was believed to be linked to plans to stage a follow-up attack in the La Defense business district, about 10 miles away, two police officials and an investigator close to the investigation said. {snip}

As security forces closed in, a woman set off a suicide blast–possibly an explosive-rigged vest or belt–after opening fire. In addition, at least seven people were arrested before the showdown was over in the historic heart of Saint-Denis, a teeming quarter with a large immigrant population.

French media identified the suicide bomber as Hasna Aitboulahcen, a cousin to Abaaoud. The 26-year-old French citizen is a former manager of Beko Construction, a company in Epernay-sur-Seine, a town north of Saint-Denis. That company was closed in 2014.


When Wednesday’s raid began, heavily armed police clad in military gear–some with their faces covered by balaclavas–moved quickly through the dark streets, while helicopters scanned the streets from the skies. For hours, traffic and public transportation were halted, and schools were shuttered.

Uthayaseelan Sanmugan, a 38-year-old cook who lives near the targeted apartment, said he woke up at 4:30 a.m. to the sound of gunfire, went to his window and saw the lights of weapon lasers outside.

“When I got to the street, I saw a lot of blood on the sidewalk. The blood of the terrorists.”


French police reported that Diesel, a 7-year-old police dog, was “killed by the terrorists” in the raid.


{snip} Across France, 118 additional raids were conducted overnight on Tuesday, with at least 25 arrests. That brought to 414 the total number of raids launched throughout France since Friday’s attack, the Interior Ministry said.


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