Abdelhamid Abaaoud, believed to be 27 or 28, is one of two suspected Islamic State radicals killed during a 7-hour standoff with police in Saint-Denis, a suburb less than six miles from the heart of Paris. Seven other suspects survived and were arrested, French prosecutor François Molins told reporters.
Police confirmed Abaaoud’s identity through fingerprint analysis, Molins said in a statement. The exact cause of death is currently unknown, but he had bullet holes and injuries from a grenade that detonated during the raid. Molin did not confirm whether the grenade wounds were self-inflicted.
“We are at war against terrorism, terrorism which declared war on us.”
In addition to staging the Nov. 13 attacks, Abaaoud is allegedly tied to numerous other terrorist attempts, reportedly serving as an intermediary between leaders of the Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for Friday’s attacks, and jihadist cells in Europe. He evaded Belgian police in January during a raid that left two his comrades dead.
France has also attributed to Abaaoud’s planning an attack on a high-speed Paris-bound train in August. Famously thwarted by two off-duty U.S. service members, the attack was attempted by a lone man from Morocco carrying an AK-47 and more than 270 rounds of ammunition.
“These acts show once again that we are at war,” French President Francois Hollande said in a speech following the raid. “We are at war against terrorism, terrorism which declared war on us.”
“It is the ‘Daesh’ jihadist organization,” he continued, using an Arabic word for the Islamic State. “It has an army. It has financial resources. It has oil. It has a territory,” he continued. “It has allies in Europe, including in our country with young, radicalized Islamist people. It committed atrocities there and wants to kill here. It has killed here.”
More than a hundred police officers in heavy armor and black masks surrounded the apartment building on the the rue du Corbillon at roughly 4:30 a.m. Wednesday morning. Schools in the area were closed and public transportation diverted during the operation, in which French police fired nearly 5,000 rounds.
When the officers started to close in, a woman inside the building triggered an explosive device, killing herself instantly. She was later identified by police sources as Hasna Aitboulahcen, Abaaoud’s cousin. They were working to establish who the 26-year-old woman may have called before her death.
The police investigation was reportedly aided by the discovery of a gunman’s unencrypted cellphone near the Bataclan Concert Hall, the site of the bloodiest attack on Friday, that contained maps and other important data, including a text message which read: “Let’s go, we’re starting.”
An international manhunt continues for Salah Abdeslam, a 26-year-old French national, accused of participating in the attacks. His brother, Ibrahim, has been identified as the Comptoir Voltaire café bomber. On Tuesday, Belgian authorities charged two men, Hamza Attou and Mohammed Amri, with participating in a terrorist attack for allegedly picking up Abdeslam after the bombings and driving him out of the country.
Abaaoud was reportedly despised by his own flesh and blood; his family members apparently once prayed for his death, according to an older sister interviewed by the New York Times, then rejoiced when they heard a rumor he was dead.
Abaaoud’s father, an immigrant shopkeeper from Morocco, told French broadcasters that he believed his son may have been radicalized in prison. Records show Abaaoud was jailed in 2010 for armed robbery in Belgium, where he may have served time alongside others who took part in Friday’s attacks.
H/T New York Times | Photo via ISIS propaganda magazine/NBC News