Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the Belgian suspected to have masterminded the 13/11 terror attacks, was killed during a seven-hour siege in a northern Paris suburb on Wednesday, the Washington Post said.
According to The Telegraph, a vital new lead came from a mobile phone thrown into a bin by one of the terrorists who attacked the Bataclan concert hall on Friday night. The last text message sent from it, at 9.42pm, just as the assault on the Bataclan was starting, said: “Off we go, here we go again.” Analysis of the phone’s content and its GPS tracker led police not only to a safe house in Alfortville, but also suggested Abaaoud was in Saint-Denis.
Around 4.15am, French police stormed an apartment in Saint-Denis where Abaaoud was believed to have holed up with several other suspects. During the raid, a young woman detonated an explosive vest while another man was reported dead. The Post cited two unnamed intelligence officials, who said forensic experts had confirmed that the man was Abaaoud.
Seven others were arrested during the raid but authorities were unsure if Abaaoud had indeed been at the flat. Francois Richier, the French ambassador to India, later said in Delhi that the 28-year-old may have committed suicide during the raid.
— Nick Sutton (@suttonnick) November 18, 2015
The raid began around 4.15 am (Paris time), when special police forces, backed by truckloads of soldiers, cordoned off an area near the Place Jean Jaures, a main square in Saint-Denis not far from the Stade de France, where three attackers blew themselves up last Friday. He said the raid was the result of the intense investigation that began after the attacks on Friday night.
A US official briefed on intelligence matters said Abaaoud was a key figure in an IS external operations cell that American intelligence agencies have been tracking for many months.
A man arrested during the police operation on Wednesday said that he had lent the apartment to the men as a favour to a friend.
“I said that there was no mattress, they told me, ‘It’s not a problem,’ they just wanted water and to pray,” the man was quoted as saying, before he was handcuffed and led away by the police.
Telegram, an encrypted instant messaging app, had been emerging as a favoured route for IS communications. Today, the service said it had suspended 78 IS-related channels this week based on information supplied by the public.