Apaydin Alain / Sipa / AP

Tapped phone led Paris attack leader to his death

Abdelhamid Abaaoud, suspected mastermind of the Paris attacks, was located through a phone tap of a person linked to him

Police watched the suspected mastermind of the Paris attacks being led by a woman into an apartment in Saint-Denis the evening before both died there during a raid by special forces in the Paris suburb, a police source said on Friday.

After a tip-off that Abdelhamid Abaaoud, one of ISIL’s most high-profile European recruits, was in France, police honed in on Hasna Aitboulahcen, a woman already under surveillance who was known to have links to him.

Police previously suspected Aitboulahcen was communicating with Abaaoud, and subsequently began tapping her phone. Information gleaned from that surveillance led police to the Saint-Denis apartment, according to French television station i-Télé.

Police on Friday confirmed that Aitboulahcen was among those killed during the raid. But officials said she did not die from detonating an explosive belt, as previously reported. A handbag found in the debris after the raid of the apartment contained a passport in the name of Hasna Aitboulahcen, authorities said. 

Police also recovered a third body from the site of the raid. That victim has still not been identified.

The Paris prosecutor's office said Wednesday that investigators believed a woman had blown herself up in the siege. Police officials later said that the woman was 26-year-old Hasna Aitboulahcen, and that she was believed to have detonated a vest. On Friday, prosecutors confirmed Aitboulahcen was killed in the police raid, but said she was not a suicide bomber.


In other developments, two of the bombers who blew themselves up at the Stade de France national stadium traveled to Greece together, prosecutors said on Friday.

In a statement, Paris prosecutor François Molins said the suicide bomber who detonated his explosive vest at Gate H of the stadium had his fingerprints taken in Greece on Oct. 3, at the same time as the bomber who blew himself up at Gate D.

French authorities say police have conducted 793 raids since last week's attacks on a rock concert, Parisian cafes and the Stade de France national stadium. The new tally was announced Friday by the Interior Ministry.

On Thursday night, police reported performing 182 raids, detaining 17 people, and seizing 76 weapons plus drugs.

After five nights of raids, authorities says police have detained 90 people and seized 174 weapons, including 18 military-style firearms, 84 rifles and 68 handguns. Additionally, 164 people have been placed under house arrest with new powers permitted under France's state of emergency. Police also seized 250,000 euros.

The French Senate, meanwhile, vote on Friday to extend the state-of-emergency powers until February. The measure gives the interior minister sweeping powers, including the right to order house arrests and house searches without judicial approval.

Police can also prohibit the free movement of people and vehicles at any time, block access to certain websites, and set up checkpoints outside public and private buildings suspected of harboring people deemed dangerous to national security.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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