Alleged Architect of Paris Attacks Killed in Raid

Paris prosecutor says Belgian national Abdelhamid Abaaoud was killed in a police operation in Saint-Denis on Wednesday

Abdelhamid Abaaoud

Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the key suspect behind the Paris attacks, was killed in a police raid in the Saint Denis suburb, the Paris prosecutor said.

“Abdelhamid Abaaoud has just been formally identified … as having been killed during the raid” in a northern Paris suburb on Wednesday, Francois Molins said in a statement on Thursday.

French police are still looking for another alleged attacker, Salah Abdeslam, who is on the run.

Abaaoud, 27, allegedly orchestrated the attacks claimed by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).


 

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Police originally thought he was in Syria, but their investigations led them to a house in the Paris suburb of Saint Denis and heavily armed officers stormed the building before dawn, triggering a massive firefight and multiple explosions.

Three police officials say a woman who died in the raid was Abaaoud’s cousin. One said Hasna Aitboulahcen is believed to have detonated a suicide vest after a brief conversation with police officers.

The official confirmed an audio recording, punctuated by gunshots, in which an officer asks: “Where is your boyfriend?” and she responded angrily: “He’s not my boyfriend!” Then loud bangs are heard.

The exact relationship between Abaaoud and Aitboulahcen was not clear.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said that Abaaoud had been involved in at least four previous foiled attacks, including an incident in August when a gunman attempted to kill passengers on a high-speed train between Amsterdam and Paris.

“[The cases] would have all involved attacks perpetrated by European jihadists sent to France … Europe must coordinate itself and defend itself against this threat,” he said on Thursday, calling for a more effective arms strategy in the continent. “The fight against terrorism is crucial.”

PM warns of “chemical attack

The announcement came after France’s prime minister warned of a possible attack using “chemical or biological weapons” as MPs prepared to vote on extending the state of emergency in a parliamentary vote.

“We must not rule anything out, there is also the risk from chemical or biological weapons,” Manuel Valls said on Thursday, though he did not cite any specific intelligence on such a threat.

In a speech to parliament earlier in the week, French President Francois Hollande asked representatives to extend the country’s state of emergency for three more months.

Emergency powers allow police arrests without warrants and the ability to close public venues.

The prime minister can order people deemed “threats to national security” held under house arrest, and the seizure of passports or national identification cards.

“This bill will also encourage the closing of mosques if they become too radical,” Valls said. “This bill is the answer for the right of a free country facing chaos.”

Marches banned

Amid heightened security concerns, France’s government has banned planned marches during international climate talks in Paris from November 29 to December 12.

Environmental activists have criticised the decision. The marches were expected to attract more than 200,000 people to put pressure on governments to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

“The government can prohibit these demonstrations but it cannot stop the mobilisation and it won’t prevent us strengthening the climate movement. Our voices will not be silenced,” French campaigner Nicolas Haeringer with the 350.org group said in a statement.

About 118 world leaders are expected to attend the UN COP21 summit, which is meant to nail down a binding global deal to limit rising carbon emissions.

 

Reprinted with permission from Al Jazeera