Prosecutor Confirmation: Planner Of Paris Attacks Died In Police Raid

Nov 19, 2015
Originally published on November 19, 2015 4:49 pm
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene in Paris this morning where there is news that the man who is suspected of having planned the attacks here in Paris last Friday that massacred many different locations - that man is dead. Abdelhamid Abaaoud was killed in a dramatic raid on an apartment in the northern Paris suburb of Saint-Denis. And because of the confusing circumstances there, it's taken until now for French authorities to confirm this. With me now in Paris, in our studio, NPR's counterterrorism correspondent Dina Temple-Raston. And Dina, wow, that was a dramatic morning that interrupted an entire neighborhood for hours yesterday. But it appears that it has led to the death of the man who carried out these awful attacks in the city.

DINA TEMPLE-RASTON, BYLINE: They actually started that raid because they thought he might be living in that building. His name is Abdelhamid Abaaoud. His cousin was actually - there was a suicide bombing that happened as they came into the apartment yesterday morning. A woman pulled a detonator on a suicide vest. It appears, from our sources, that that was actually Abaaoud's cousin. And as a result, they were pretty sure he was inside that building.

GREENE: Well, and we'll be learning more about him as the day goes on. I do want to say, Dina, while I was in here doing the show, you ran out in this hotel where we are and interviewed a writer who's actually talked to you about this neighborhood, Saint-Denis, where this whole thing took place. His name is Andrew Hussey, he's author of the book "The French Intifada: The Long War Between France And Its Arabs." And let's just listen to a little of what he told you.

ANDREW HUSSEY: Saint-Denis is pretty typical of the kind of place where radicalization has been taking place. I've been working there a lot in the past 10 years. When I first started working there, I would go to radical bookshops and talk to people and monitor a little bit the kind of cassettes and tapes and books that were being distributed there. One of the things that struck me was how seductive and easy it is, actually, to be radicalized.

TEMPLE-RASTON: And that's one of the problems that France is dealing with now is this seductiveness and the Internet and social media and radicalization. But in addition to that, they have a huge problem of radicalization in their prisons. Let's hear him talk about that now.

HUSSEY: Often the way it works is that in the French prison system, you're not allowed to know the religious or ethnic composition of the population. Except everybody knows who is a radical Muslim, and the radical Muslims organize themselves in the prison system like a kind of secret army. And I've spoken to directors of French prisons who are intellectuals and very frustrated at this because they literally cannot control the population.

GREENE: This is amazing, Dina Temple-Raston. We're talking about radicalization happening in prisons. Also, I mean, there are radical bookshops in this neighborhood. And he said it's seductive and easy to be radicalized.

TEMPLE-RASTON: That's right. Well, that's one of the problems that French intelligence is having to deal with now. And they're dealing with this in the United States as well - with the number of people who can meet other like-minded people who are disaffected, who are looking for answers, and they can find them all on social media and the Internet and find each other and group together.

GREENE: And we should say, Abaaoud, the man who was confirmed dead this morning, I mean, he was living in Belgium, in a neighborhood of Brusells that is known for ties to extremism. But it sounds like that kind of radicalization is happening right here in the streets of Paris as well. Dina Temple-Raston, sitting next to me in our studios, will be covering this story all morning long - the news that the man who is believed to have coordinated the attacks here in Paris has been killed. Dina, thanks a lot.

TEMPLE-RASTON: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.