The man pegged as the “mastermind” behind the Paris terror attacks was killed during a police raid.
Abdelhamid Abaaoud was the “brain of these attacks,” according to French prime minister Manuel Valls.
“The brain of these attacks–or at least one of them, if we remain cautious–was among those dead. I want to acknowledge the outstanding work of our intelligence services and the police,” Valls told France’s national assembly on November 19.
Abaaoud was killed during a pre-dawn police raid in Saint-Denis, a suburb of Paris.
SWAT teams stormed an apartment where officials thought Abaaoud might be, based on eyewitness reports, tapped phone conversations, and surveillance.
After entering the apartment, police officers spotted a woman. One officer asked her, “Where is your boyfriend?” and she responded angrily: “He’s not my boyfriend!”, reported the Associated Press.
— Herald Sun (@theheraldsun) November 19, 2015
That woman, Abaaoud’s cousin Hasna Aitboulahcen, then blew herself up.
The explosion and gunshots from police killed Abaaoud. He may have also ignited a bomb. Multiple officers were wounded, and a police dog was killed.
The prosecutor said in a statement confirming Abaaoud is dead that the terrorist’s body was “riddled with bullets.”
The 28-year-old Belgian national was identified through skin samples and fingerprints, reported BBC.
While the death of Abaaoud is good news for security services, there is also serious cause for concern–authorities believed Abaaoud was still in Syria after traveling there in 2014, meaning he slipped back into Europe without being detected by police.
Abaaoud bragged in ISIS propaganda that he was able to travel between Europe and Syria without being detected.
An unnamed national intelligence service outside Europe informed France three full days after the Paris attacks, which took place on Nov. 13, that Abaaoud may have been spotted in Greece, said French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve.
Abaaoud was not only involved in the Paris attacks, but appears to have been linked to four of the six foiled terrorist “projects” since spring 2015, according to Cazeneuve, reported the Guardian.
Sources told Reuters that the raid in Saint-Denis broke up a cell that had been planning an attack on La Defense, a business district in Paris.
European officials are still searching for two other terrorists believed to be involved in the Paris attacks–Bilal Hadfi in Brussels and Salah Abdeslam, whereabouts unknown.
Abdeslam’s two brothers were arrested and questioned shortly after the attacks but later released.
The other terrorists involved in the attacks died after blowing themselves up.