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Paris terror attack mastermind 'linked to four foiled plots in France'

Published 19/11/2015

Police activity during the raid on an apartment in Saint-Denis
Police activity during the raid on an apartment in Saint-Denis

The suspected ringleader of the Paris attacks who was killed during a dramatic police shoot-out was linked to four foiled terror plots in France this year, the country's interior minister has said.

Bernard Cazeneuve said French authorities had no information that Islamic State (IS) jihadist Abdelhamid Abaaoud was in France before last Friday's massacre which left 129 dead.

Abaaoud, 27, died with his cousin Hasna Aitboulahcen who blew herself up following a major pre-dawn raid in the northern suburb of Saint-Denis on Wednesday. His body was identified based on his fingerprints.

Mr Cazeneuve told a press conference that the French government was only informed by an intelligence service "outside of Europe" of Abaaoud's whereabouts on Monday.

The jihadist from Belgium had returned from Syria in 2014 and had been involved in four of six foiled attacks in France since spring 2015, he added.

The French interior minister said the six failed plots were all planned from abroad with the intention that they would be carried out by jihadists living in Europe.

A suspected terrorist had confessed while under arrest that he had been trained by Abaaoud to carry out a "violent attack" in France or another European country, he added

"It is urgent for Europe to come together, organise and defend itself against the terrorist threat," Mr Cazeneuve said.

A French official said Aitboulahcen - believed to be the f irst female suicide bomber to hit Western Europe - detonated a suicide vest after a brief exchange with police officers.

According to the official, one of the officers asked: "Where is your boyfriend?" and she responded angrily: "He's not my boyfriend!" before there was an explosion.

The bodies recovered in the raid were badly mangled, with part of the woman's spine landing on a police car, complicating formal identification.

Eight people were arrested following the raid which saw p olice fire about 5,000 rounds of ammunition as the terrorist cell barricaded themselves in the hideout.

Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said the operation neutralised a "new terrorist threat", and that "everything led us to believe that, considering their armaments, the structured organisation and their determination, they were ready to act".

The jihadis were set to carry out a second attack after Friday's massacre, this time targeting Charles de Gaulle airport and the city's financial district La Defense, according to reports.

Salah Abdeslam, one of the suspected gunmen from Friday's attacks who is now the focus of an international manhunt, was not among those arrested, the prosecutor added.

Belgian authorities today launched six raids in the Brussels region linked to Bilal Hadfi, one of the suicide bombers outside the Stade de France.

Meanwhile, French prime minister Manuel Valls warned that terrorists could use chemical or biological weapons, and urged an extension of France's state of emergency.

He said: "Terrorism hit France, not because of what it is doing in Iraq and Syria ... but for what it is.

"We know that there could also be a risk of chemical or biological weapons."

Belgian police are also reportedly searching for a man named Mohamed K, from Roubaix, northern France, who is suspected of supplying the terrorist gang with explosives.

The eight arrested included one woman and a man whose flat was used as a hideout by the terror cell and are being interrogated.

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