WaPo: Ringleader of Paris attacks killed in raid

Posted at 1:05 AM, Nov 19, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-19 01:05:24-05

PARIS -- A man suspected of being the ringleader behind Friday's attacks on Paris was killed in Wednesday's early-morning raid at an apartment building north of the city, The Washington Post reports.

Explosions and gunfire rang out as French police stormed a building in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis where Abdelhamid Abaaoud was believed to be hiding, a senior police official told The Associated Press. Authorities said a woman blew herself up and a man was killed. Seven people were arrested.

Police did not identify them, but two senior European officials told The Washington Post that Abaaoud was the man killed. It's not clear yet if he died in police gunfire, by his own hand or in the woman's suicide blast.

On Monday, French authorities identified Abaaoud, the child of Moroccan immigrants who grew up in the Belgian capital's multiethnic Molenbeek neighborhood, as the presumed ringleader behind Friday's attacks that killed 129 people and wounded over 350. He also is believed to have links to earlier attacks that were thwarted: one against a Paris-bound high-speed train that was foiled by three young Americans in August, and the other against a church in the French capital's suburbs.

Once a happy-go-lucky student at one of Brussels' most prestigious high schools, Saint-Pierre d'Uccle, Abaaoud morphed into Belgium's most notorious jihadi, a zealot so devoted to holy war that he recruited his 13-year-old brother to join him in Syria.

RELATED: Who is Abdelhamid Abaaoud?

Abaaoud once bragged about being so slippery he could move undetected between Syria and Belgium, his home country.

Belgian authorities suspect him of also helping organize and finance a terror cell in the eastern city of Verviers that was broken up in an armed police raid on Jan. 15, in which two of his presumed accomplices were killed.

The hardscrabble area in western Brussels where he grew up has long been considered a focal point of Islamic radicalism and the recruitment of foreign fighters to go to Iraq and Syria.