Uncertainty remained throughout the day Wednesday over whether a massive pre-dawn raid by French police killed alleged Paris attack planner Abdelhamid Abaaoud. The Washington Post, citing “two senior European intelligence officials,” is reporting the suspected ringleader was killed when police stormed an apartment building in the suburb of Saint-Denis during the seven-hour police operation.
The Post elaborated on its sourcing saying:
The two European officials from different countries, who have followed the case closely, said they had received the information about Abaaoud’s death from French authorities. The two officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.
French officials, however, have declined to positively identify Abaaoud as killed during the raid. Paris prosecutor François Molins said the bodies are still in the process of being identified. Explosives and thousands of rounds of ammunition fired reduced the apartment building to near rubble. Other outlets, like the New York Times, have held off in reporting the Abaaoud’s death. “When [the raid] was all over, the police had swept eight people into custody and found at least two mangled bodies. Mr. Abaaoud had not been taken alive, the authorities said—and it was not clear whether one of the bodies was his,” the Times writes.
Abaaoud, 27, was a petty criminal and secondary-school dropout born in the Brussels, Belgium neighborhood of Molenbeek. According to his family, he had not demonstrated any particular religious zeal before moving to Syria to join ISIS in 2014. He was a person of high interest to law enforcement and intelligence authorities even before the Nov. 13 Paris attacks; Abaaoud is believed to have been connected to several other terror attacks (including the August incident aboard a train in which vacationing Americans helped disarm a gunman) and was targeted unsuccessfully in an October missile strike in Raqqa, Syria.