The militant's killing has propaganda and strategy ramifications—but the group won't be too worriedby Josh Lowe / November 19, 2015 / Leave a comment
In the frenzied search for the culprits behind last week’s attacks in Paris, which killed 129 people, one name has been pre-eminent: that of Abdelhamid Abaaoud. Suspected of being the “mastermind” behind the shootings and bombings, 28-year-old Abaaoud, born in Belgium, took on a sudden and, as it turned out, brief infamy. Today, French prosecutors have confirmed that the militant was killed yesterday in a police raid on a flat in the Paris suburb of Saint Denis. He died alongside his cousin Hasna Aitboulahcen, who blew herself up, thereby becoming the first female suicide bomber in western European history.
Born in Brussels to a family of Moroccan immigrants, Abaaoud is also known to fellow militants by the nom de guerre Abu Umar al-Belgiki. He is thought to have enjoyed a relatively comfortable upbringing—his father owned a clothing store and he attended Saint-Pierre d’Uccle, one of Belgium’s top secondary schools. But he reportedly turned to drugs and petty crime when he grew older, then at some unknown point was radicalised. He moved to Syria in 2014, and later declared in a video that “all my life I have seen the blood of Muslims flow. I pray that God breaks the backs of those who oppose him” and “that he exterminates them.” According to the New York Times, his family have turned away from him, and rejoiced at false news of his death in a Syrian raid last autumn. But will his former comrades in the Islamic State (IS) miss him?