French officials: Suspected Paris attack mastermind killed in raid

French officials: Suspected Paris attack mastermind killed in raid

French authorities are now confirming the death of the suspected mastermind in last week's terrorist attacks in Paris.

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Abdelhamid Abaaoud died during a police raid early Wednesday in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis, according to a statement released Thursday by French prosecutors.

French law enforcement used DNA samples and fingerprints to identify Abaaoud's body, which was reportedly "riddled" with bullets. 

Abaaoud, a Belgian national, had traveled to Syria and supported the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), according to multiple reports.

He allegedly coordinated a string of bombings and shootings across Paris last Friday evening that killed 129 people and injured more than 300 others. ISIS has claimed credit for those attacks.

The White House on Thursday praised news of the successful French raid and Abaaoud’s death.

“The French authorities should be applauded for their vigilance in going after the terrorists who intend to do their people harm,” said Jen Psaki, the White House communications director, on CNN.

“We need to take every threat seriously,” she added. “Our intelligence authorities are not treating what happened in Paris as a one-off. This is something we are tracking every day.”

President Obama spoke by phone with French President François Hollande on Thursday from the Philippines to discuss the “latest developments in the investigation” into the attacks, the White House said.

There was confusion Wednesday over whether Abaaoud was among those killed during the predawn police raid in which two suspected terrorists were killed and another seven arrested.

“The state of the body does not allow for identification,” said Paris public prosecutor François Molins on Wednesday after news reports surfaced that Abaaoud was dead.

“It’s difficult to investigate inside the building, and at this point in time I cannot give you a precise update on the actual … [identification] of the people that are dead,” he added.

Molins said Wednesday that more than 100 French officers took part in the seven-hour operation, which began at 4 a.m. Officers used grenades and sniper rifles during a battle with suspects, he added, with more than 5,000 rounds fired.

Molins added that the residence was near collapse following Wednesday morning’s battle.

Media reports indicated that Hasna Aitboulahcen, 26, was the other suspect who died. Aitboulahcen, a cousin of Abaaoud’s, reportedly died after detonating a suicide bomb once law enforcement officials entered the suspects’ apartment.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve criticized other European nations early Thursday for not sharing information about Abaaoud sooner, according to France 24.

He added that France found out the suspected terrorist had reached the continent on Nov. 16, two days after the attack he spearheaded.

“No information was coming from [other] European countries, where he could have transited before he arrived in France,” Cazeneuve said of Abaaoud.

“It was only on Nov. 16, after the terrorist attacks, that an intelligence service outside Europe signaled that they had been aware of his presence in Greece,” he continued.

“[Europe] must wake up, get organized,” Cazeneuve added. “Europe must do everything to vanquish terrorism.”

Cazeneuve added that Abaaoud was behind four of six attempted terrorist attacks foiled since last spring.

--This report was updated at 11:51 a.m.