PARIS – Abdelhamid Abaaoud the Belgian jihadist suspected of plotting deadly attacks in Paris has been killed in a police raid on a suburban apartment building, the city prosecutor’s office announced Thursday.
Paris prosecutor François Molins’ office said Abdelhamid Abaaoud was identified based on skin samples. His body was found in the apartment building targeted in the chaotic and bloody raid in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis on Wednesday.
Police launched the operation after receiving information from tapped phone calls, surveillance and tipoffs suggesting that Abaaoud was holed up there.
Killed along with Abaaoud was a woman who blew herself up with an explosives vest at the beginning of the raid. Eight people were arrested.
“Abdel Hamid Abaaoud has just been formally identified, after comparing fingerprints, as having been killed during the (police) raid,” a statement from the prosecutor’s office said, according to Reuters. “It was the body we had discovered in the building, riddled with bullets.”
Three police officials said the woman killed during the raid was the cousin of the alleged leader of last week’s attacks.
One official said Hasna Aitboulahcen is believed to have detonated a suicide vest after a brief exchange with police officers.
According to the official, one of the officers asked: “Where is your boyfriend?” and she responded angrily: “He’s not my boyfriend!” Then there was an explosion.
The bodies recovered in the raid were badly mangled, with a part of the woman’s spine landing on a police car, complicating formal identification.
The officials say her exact relationship with Abdelhamid Abaaoud has not been confirmed. The officials all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not permitted to divulge details of the investigation.
With France still reeling from last week’s deadly attacks in Paris, Prime Minister Manuel Valls warned Thursday that Islamic extremists might at some point use chemical or biological weapons, and urged lawmakers to extend a national state of emergency by three months.
“Terrorism hit France not because of what it is doing in Iraq and Syria … but for what it is,” Valls told the lower house of parliament. He added, “We know that there could also be a risk of chemical or biological weapons.”
Valls did not say there was a specific threat involving such weapons.
Raids in Belgium
In Belgium, authorities launched six raids in the Brussels region Thursday linked to Bilal Hadfi, one of the three suicide bombers who blew themselves up outside the Stade de France.
An official in the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office told The Associated Press the raids were taking place in the suburb of Molenbeek and other areas of Brussels. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing, said the actions were focusing on Hadfi’s “entourage.”
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel on Thursday called for changes to the country’s constitution to combat extremists, and promised hundreds of millions of euros to boost the security forces.
Addressing the federal parliament as security forces were conducting raids around the capital Brussels, Michel pledged to use changes to the constitution to extend preventive detention times for suspects from 24 hours to 72 hours.
He also affirmed that Belgium would move forward alone on a system of airline passenger information sharing that European Union nations have been incapable of agreeing in four years.
“The risk before us is the collapse of the entire European project if we don’t take our responsibilities,” he told the lawmakers.
“All democratic forces have to work together to strengthen our security,” he said.
‘Their place is in prison’
Michel said 400 million euros would be earmarked to boost the security forces, and said special attention would be paid to eradicating messages of hate inspiring young people to fight in places like Syria and Iraq, or back at home later in Europe.
“For jihadis who return, their place is in prison,” said Michel.
He dismissed criticism of Belgian police, saying they had provided vital information that led to a major police raid in the northern Paris suburb of Saint Denis on Wednesday.
Some 500 people are on Belgium’s list of “radicalized” people, and about 30 people are known to have travelled to Syria as potential foreign fighters in the Molenbeek neighbourhood, a major source of extremists.
Michel said he would introduce a system for people considered a threat that would “impose the wearing of an electronic bracelet.”
Stepped up airstrikes
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius urged the international community to do more to eradicate the Islamic State group, which claimed responsibility for last Friday’s attacks on a rock concert, Parisian cafes and the national stadium.
Fabius, speaking on France-Inter radio, said the group “is a monster. But if all the countries in the world aren’t capable of fighting against 30,000 people (ISIS members), it’s incomprehensible.”
France has stepped up its airstrikes against extremists in Syria since the attack, and French President François Hollande is going to Washington and Moscow next week to push for a stronger international coalition against ISIS.
Speaking after the seven-hour siege in Saint-Denis, Hollande said that France was “at war” with the Islamic State group.
In its English-language magazine, Islamic State said it will continue its violence and “retaliate with fire and bloodshed” for insults against the Prophet Muhammad and “the multitudes killed and injured in crusader airstrikes.”