French police killed Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected mastermind of the attacks in which at least 130 people died in Paris in November last year, after a tip-off from a crucial source led them to an apartment in the French capital’s suburb.
A Washington Post report has said the crucial source was a Muslim woman connected to Hasna Aitboulahcen, Abaaoud’s cousin who died as police stormed the flat where she was holed up with six Islamic State terrorists days after the attacks.
The woman along with Aitboulahcen met Abaaoud two days after the Paris bombings and shootings, according to the newspaper. While Aitboulahcen was excited to meet her cousin, the source was caught off-guard after seeing Abaaoud who she immediately identified as an ISIS terrorist from the videos she had seen on TV.
Aitboulahcen was under surveillance in a narcotics operation at the time.
The Post accessed the French investigative documents and learned that the other woman secretly met with the police and informed them of the meeting. Three days later the authorities zeroed in on the flat in the Saint-Denis suburb.
“It’s important the world knows that I am Muslim myself,” the woman said to The Post in an interview. “It’s important to me that people know what Abaaoud and the others did is not what Islam is teaching,” she added.
Abaaoud, a 28-year-old Belgian, was killed by the police in a shootout in the Paris suburb of St Denis on November 18. Having fought in Syria as Abu Omar al-Beljiki (The Belgian), he avoided capture in a Belgian police raid in Verviers on January 16 in which two fellow Belgians were killed.
He boasted of flitting between Syria and Europe and was believed to have promoted attacks including the 2014 shooting at Brussels’ Jewish Museum and the Thalys train attack last August.
Abaaoud was sentenced to 20 years in prison in absentia in July last year, part of a case known as the Syrian Connection, in which some 30 suspects were handed jail sentences.
His father Omar accused him of kidnapping his younger brother Younes who at the age of 13 was vaunted as becoming the youngest foreign fighter in Syria.
Another attack stopped
The French investigative documents also revealed that the police learned that Abaaoud was gearing up for another attack on Paris.
According to Washington Post, Abaaoud told the women that dozens of Islamic State militants had accompanied him into Europe by hiding among streams of refugees.
The attack on Brussels last month were carried out by remnants of a network assembled by Abaaoud.
The number of people linked to the Islamic State network that attacked Paris and Brussels reaches easily into the dozens, the AP reported last week. A series of new arrests confirmed the cell’s toxic reach and ability to move around unnoticed in Europe’s criminal underworld, the report claimed.
From Belgium’s Molenbeek to Sweden’s Malmo, new names are added nearly daily to the list of hardened attackers, hangers-on, and tacit supporters of the cell that killed 130 people in Paris and 32 in Brussels.
A computer abandoned by one of the Brussels suicide bombers in a trash can contained not only his will, but is beginning to give up other information as well, including an audio file indicating the cell was getting its orders directly from a French-speaking extremist in Syria, a French police official told AP last week.
(with inputs from Agencies)