French authorities have announced that Islamic State attack planner Abdelhamid Abaaoud is dead.
Forensic scientists were able to determine from fingerprints that the so-called mastermind of a string of terrorist attacks in and around France this year was killed during a shoot-out with police early Wednesday.
The official statement from the Paris prosecutor’s office read: “Abdel Hamid Abaaoud has just been formally identified, after comparing fingerprints, as having been killed during the raid. His was the body we discovered in the building, riddled with bullets.”
Abaaoud, thought to be 27 years old, was known to be one of the Islamic States’ most brutal executioners, as well as one it’s most effective recruiters. He primarily worked in Belgium, where he’d grown up after being born in Morocco. But anti-terror police say he left Europe for the Islamic State in 2014.
Initially, it was thought he directed last Friday’s terrorist attacks from Syria. But using a cell phone abandoned outside the Bataclan Theater by one of the attackers just before the slaughter there, and the GPS recordings of three rental cars police recovered that were used in the attacks, investigators were able to set up phone traps that traced him to an apartment in Saint-Denis, a northern suburb of Paris.
That led to a police raid that resulted in eight arrests and two deaths. Police fired 5,000 rounds of ammunition during the raid, which began at 4:20 a.m. Abaaoud and the other suspects had reinforced the door of the apartment where they were hiding and returned fire.
French anti-terror authorities have tied three other attempted, but ultimately failed, terror attacks to Abaaoud’s planning. Most famously, an attack that he’s believed to have planned this summer on a high-speed train between Brussels and Paris was thwarted by three friends from Sacramento, Calif., who were on vacation, and other passengers.
Matthew Schofield: @mattschodcnews