The alleged mastermind of last week's deadly Paris attacks was killed Wednesday during a raid carried out by French police, the Paris prosecutor confirmed today.
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Abdelhamid Abaaoud was identified by his fingerprints collected at the scene in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis. His body was found "riddled with impacts,” according to the prosecutor's statement.
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve today said authorities have confirmed that Abaaoud played a "key role" in Friday's coordinated attacks. Cazeneuve said Abaaoud seems to have been involved in four of six plans for terrorist attacks in France since this past spring, but it’s unclear whether he played a role in the thwarted train attack in August.
Cazeneuve said French officials received no warning that Abaaoud, a Belgian citizen, had returned to Europe until Nov. 16, three days after the Paris attacks, when a non-European country told French authorities there were signs of his presence in Greece. Officials said that they were able to pinpoint the location of the raid that led to his death based on records collected from a cellphone they found discarded near one of Friday night's attack sites.
Cazeneuve called on Europe to do more to share intelligence and combat arms trafficking.
The operation where Abaaoud was killed started with shootings at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday, officials said. It resulted in the initial arrest of three people inside an apartment. At that point, a woman triggered a suicide vest.
Police fired nearly 5,000 rounds during the Saint-Denis raid, Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins said Wednesday, adding that it was a particularly difficult raid because the apartment had an armored door.
Investigators were led to the apartment building in Saint-Denis after reviewing cellphone records and surveillance video indicating that Abaaoud, previously thought to be in Syria, was staying there, Molins said.
Molins said the blast from the suicide bomber caused the building to partially collapse, which has added to the amount of time needed to conduct the investigation because officials have had to reinforce the walls before collecting more evidence.
"We have reason to believe, given their weaponry, given their structured organization, and their determination, we have reason to believe this commando cell could have moved to act," Molins said after the raid.
Meanwhile, Belgian police early this morning detained one person in connection with Friday's attacks, in the Laeken area of Brussels, according to the Belgian Prosecutor's office.
The individual is being questioned but there is no indication of what the connection might be to the attacks.
The Prosecutor's office also confirmed that six raids were taking place across Belgium, including Molenbeek, Brussels-city and Jette.
The raids are connected to Bilal Hadfi, one of the alleged Paris stadium bombers.