Thanks to the carelessness of the terrorists responsible for the Nov 13-14 attacks in Paris that killed 129 innocent people, police have been able to make progress in their investigations and the architect of the crimes has been killed.
It began with one of the terrorists involved in the shooting at the Bataclan theatre. He disposed of his cell phone in a nearby trash can, thinking no one would find it. Fortunately, authorities did find it and discovered his unencrypted text messages and documents. The phone was found to have a map of the interior of the concert hall, along with a text message to an unknown recipient saying “we’re going in.”
Thanks to the finding, French forces discovered three hideouts that had been used in preparing the attack. Police used the phone's’ stored location reports to find rooms on the edge of the city where other terrorists involved in the attacks resided. The phone data also made it possible for investigators to confirm information received from other sources.
This information first led sources to an empty house in the northeast part of the city. The second location, however, provided security services with just what they wanted.
The source had indicated that Abdelhamid Abaaoud, believed to be the orchestrator of the attack, was in Saint Denis on the top floor of an apartment building. Previous information had led the police to believe Abaaoud was in Syria, but the cell phone data helped confirm that he was, in fact, still in the country.
Acting upon the lead, French authorities ordered a SWAT assault on the location. Having accurate information was vital due to the possible danger to innocent bystanders when a SWAT raid is organized needlessly.
Fortunately, sources were proven correct. More than 100 police surrounded the apartment building in question on Wednesday Nov. 18. The assault began at 4:40 Parisian time. SWAT forces attempted to take the terrorists by surprise, but the door to the apartment wouldn’t cave in. As a result, a shootout ensued. A woman in the apartment set-off an explosive device that killed her. The shooting and explosion brought down a beam, under which police found a body after the fire ceased.
The dead woman was Hasna Ait Boulahcen, an ISIS operative who police had wiretapped to discover the location of the apartment. After careful study, including fingerprint analysis, the other body was identified as that of Abdelhamid Abaaoud. The mastermind behind the Paris attacks was dead.
While this news brings much needed relief to the people of France, it won’t be the end of the story. French lawmakers have voted to extend the government’s state-of-emergency powers for the next three months. Initiatives are being taken to prevent attacks within the country and in other potential European targets, such as Belgium (which served as a center or organization for the Paris attacks) and the Vatican.
Abaaoud was a Belgian national of Moroccan descent. He participated in ISIS activities in Syria. Investigators have been trying to determine how he traveled to and from Syria without detection. One of the prevailing theories is that he hid among the waves of Syrian asylum-seekers flooding into Greece. This could be significant for discussions on the national security ramifications of receiving refugees in other parts of the world, including the United States.