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Breaking: Paris 'mastermind' was killed in raid by special forces

Killed: Abdelhamid Abaaoud
Killed: Abdelhamid Abaaoud

The suspected mastermind of the Paris attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, was killed in a police raid, the Paris prosecutor said.

In a statement, the prosecutor's office said that Abaaoud's body was found in an apartment building targeted in the raid in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, on Wednesday.

It said he was identified based on skin samples.

The raid was launched after information from tapped telephone conversations, surveillance and witness accounts indicated that Abaaoud might be in a safe house in the north Paris suburb of Saint-Denis.
 
 
Mr Molins said heavily armed police squads initially were thwarted by a reinforced door to the apartment in the Saint-Denis neighbourhood north of Paris and faced nearly incessant fire as they worked to enter.
 
Heavily armed French SWAT teams swooped and neutralised a cell that was planning to launch new terror attacks, firing 5,000 rounds during an hours-long battle.

Abaaoud came on to the international radar as a radical Muslim combatant for the first time in February 2014, said Jasmine Opperman, a senior director with the independent Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium (TRAC).

Western recruits had flocked to Syria from Europe and elsewhere to battle the forces of Syrian president Bashar Assad, and fighters from Belgium and other French-speaking countries were co-ordinating assaults north of Aleppo.

During the campaign, Abaaoud was filmed at the wheel of a pickup truck dragging a load of mutilated bodies following a mass execution committed by Islamic State at a place called Hraytan.

Abaaoud, by then using a nom de guerre, Abou Omar Soussi, wore the same kind of hat as many Afghan mujahedeen, and joked and appeared happy.

"His father was very much against him going there," the Belgian source told AP. But there was much worse news for the family.

Also in 2014, Abaaoud persuaded younger brother Younes, then 13, to join him in the territory under control of IS. Though Belgium has produced more radical Islamic fighters relative to its total population than any other European country, the departure of the boy - dubbed "Syria's youngest jihadi" - made national headlines. It also made Abaaoud a household name here.

In July, the Belgian courts found Abaaoud guilty in absentia of kidnapping Younes. Ms Gallant said the father believes his older son "wanted to pull him away from a bad education which he considered too Europeanised".

Ms Gallant, quoting the father, said he hopes that when current events are over "I will finally learn what became of Younes."