French security forces must have realized they had the right house when a woman detonated a suicide bomb to keep them out of the apartment in Paris. That started a firefight between police and the suspected jihadists in the building. “Two senior intelligence officials” tell the Washington Post that the battle left Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected mastermind behind the mass terror attack that left almost 130 people dead in Paris, rapidly approaching room temperature himself:
A massive police raid Wednesdays killed the suspected ringleader of the Paris attacks during a blitz-style sweep, two senior European intelligence officials said, after investigators followed leads that the fugitive militant was holed up north of the French capital and could be plotting another wave of violence.
More than 100 police and soldiers stormed the building during a seven-hour siege that left two dead including the suspected overseer of the Paris bloodshed, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who had once boasted he could slip easily between Europe and the Islamic State strongholds in Syria.
The confirmation was made after forsenic experts combed through the aftermath — blown-out windows, floors collapsed by explosions — presumably seeking DNA and other evidence. The intelligence officials spoke on condition of anonymity before announcements from authorities.
The death of the Belgian extremist Abaaoud closed one major dragnet in the international search for suspects from Friday’s carnage that killed at least 129 people and wounded 350 others. At least one other suspect believed closed linked to the Paris attacks remains at large.
This KTLA report from earlier in the day has some video of the raid:
Did the suspects really leave a cell phone behind that traced the attack back to their HQ? That seems remarkably dumb, especially if French police are correct in stating that they were about to launch a second wave of attacks.
Update: If this is correct, then the cell was prepared for a very destructive attack, even without the suicide belt explosives:
— CBS News (@CBSNews) November 18, 2015
Plus, this message must have sent chills down a few spines, too:
#BREAKING Paris gunman sent text message saying 'we're starting': prosecutor
— AFP News Agency (@AFP) November 18, 2015
— ABC News (@ABC) November 18, 2015
Maybe the Post should have a little chat with its “senior European intelligence sources.”
Update: Or perhaps there’s no conflict between the two reports? Consider:
#BREAKING Suspected Paris planner Abaaoud not among arrested, bodies still unidentified: prosecutor
— AFP News Agency (@AFP) November 18, 2015
BREAKING: Paris prosecutor: authorities trying to determine identities of those arrested, killed in raid.
— The Associated Press (@AP) November 18, 2015
If he’s dead, he wouldn’t be arrested. On the other hand, they haven’t ID’d the bodies yet, so at best the Post’s report is premature.
Update: More on the text message from The Hill. It was from Friday evening, not a signal for a fresh attack:
Some unconfirmed reports indicate that one of the Paris terrorists’ mobile phone, recovered from a trash can near the site of the deadliest strike, appears to have been unencrypted.
French media report that the phone contained a map of the concert hall where so many were victimized in the attacks and a chilling text message sent shortly after the first gunman entered the venue: “Let’s go, we’re starting.” …
Because the attacks were planned seemingly under the noses of French and Belgian authorities, some lawmakers and intelligence and law enforcement officials have reignited calls for tech companies to provide them with guaranteed access to secure devices.
Of course, this doesn’t preclude the possibility that they also use encrypted devices. Certainly after this, the next cell that launches an operation will try to do so if they can.
Update: Police are still working on identifying the two dead bodies:
7:50 p.m. [local]
Authorities say the suspected ringleader of the Paris attack and a fugitive wanted over the deadly rampage were not arrested in a massive police raid north of the capital, but could be among those killed.
Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins says that authorities know that suspected ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud or wanted fugitive Salah Abdeslam were not among those detained in the police operation Wednesday.