Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the alleged mastermind behind the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, was killed Wednesday in a predawn raid by French police in the northern Paris suburb of Saint-Denis, intelligence officials told the Washington Post. The 27-year-old Belgian national was initially suspected of organizing Friday's deadly attacks from Syria.
Abaaoud, who was of Moroccan descent, was apparently hiding out with other suspected terrorists in an apartment in Saint-Denis, about a mile from the Stade de France stadium where three suicide bombers detonated during a France-vs.-Germany soccer match Friday. More than 100 police and soldiers stormed the apartment and another on the same street in the northern Paris suburb early Wednesday. Abaaoud and a female suicide bomber were both killed during the massive operation, and seven other suspects were arrested. Police sources told CNN the raid was "right on time" because the suspected terrorists targeted in Saint-Denis were "about to move on some kind of operation."
Officials believe Abaaoud was close to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State extremist group, and may have been the link between senior ISIS leadership and ISIS agents in Europe. In an effort to kill Abaaoud, the French military conducted airstrikes in October targeting an ISIS training camp for foreign fighters in Raqqa, the group's de facto capital in Syria.
"He was the one training foreign fighters," and he spent time at the camp, a French counterterrorism source told CNN, though it's unclear whether Abaaoud was there at the time of the airstrikes.
Abaaoud, a Muslim, grew up in the Molenbeek suburb of Brussels, which is home to other members of the Islamic militant cell suspected of carrying out the deadly attacks in Paris. His father, Omar, made a living as the owner of a clothing shop, located near the family's spacious home on Rue de l'Avenir close to the local police station. Abaaoud was granted admission to Collège Saint-Pierre d’Uccle, an exclusive Catholic school in an upscale residential area of Brussels, but he stayed for only one year. He then got involved in drugs and theft and spent time in jail for petty crime in 2010, the New York Times reported.
While living in Molenbeek, Abaaoud became friends with Ibrahim and Salah Abdeslam, two brothers who are now at the center of the French investigation. Authorities said Ibrahim was one of the suicide bombers Friday and Salah, who rented a car used in the attacks, remains at large. Abaaoud's father joined a state prosecutor's case against his son in May for having recruited Abaaoud's younger brother to join him in Syria, according to the New York Times.
"I can't take it anymore," Omar reportedly told local reporters at the time. "He destroyed our families. I don’t ever want to see him again.”
The near simultaneous attacks on bars, restaurants, a concert hall and the national stadium in and around Paris on Nov. 13 killed at least 129 people and left hundreds wounded. France's Council of Ministers said Wednesday that authorities have finished identifying the victims and more than 100 families have claimed their loved ones' remains, CNN reported. More than 200 people are still in the hospital, 57 of them in intensive care, according to BBC News.