Terror attacks

Female suicide bomber 'used to be party girl'

Hasna Aitboulahcen, who was believed to have blown herself up during the police raid that killed the suspected ringleader of the Paris attacks, was described by a friend as a bon vivant who often wore a cowboy hat. But her brother said she suddenly b
Hasna Aitboulahcen, who was believed to have blown herself up during the police raid that killed the suspected ringleader of the Paris attacks, was described by a friend as a bon vivant who often wore a cowboy hat. But her brother said she suddenly became radicalised about six months ago.

AULNAY-SOUS-BOIS (France) • Hasna Aitboulahcen, the woman believed to have blown herself up during the police raid that killed the suspected ringleader of the Paris attacks, swopped a party-girl persona for that of an Islamist radical just months before her death.

Aitboulahcen's story is that of a young woman from a broken home with an unstable disposition before her conversion to radical Islam.

During Wednesday's dawn raid in the Paris suburb of Saint Denis, the 26-year-old was heard responding to a member of the team hunting for her cousin Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the alleged brains behind the attacks.

"Where's your boyfriend, where is he?" the officer is heard shouting on a clip filmed by local residents. "He's not my boyfriend!" a high-pitched voice screams back.

Several loud explosions are then heard, with Aitboulahcen understood to have detonated her explosives vest to become France's first female suicide bomber.

On Thursday, both her mother and brother said they recognised her voice from the recording. Her brother, who did not want to give his name, said she suddenly became radicalised about six months ago.

"She was unstable; she created her own bubble. She wasn't looking to study religion. I have never even seen her open a Quran," he said.

"It's brainwashing," added her 58-year-old mother. According to a neighbour, Aitboulahcen had "the gift of the gab" but was "a bit crazy".

"She might appear suddenly in front of you and start rapping."

In the eastern town of Creutzwald near the German border, where her 74-year-old father lives, a long-time friend, Jerome, described her as a bon vivant who often wore a cowboy hat and "smoked occasionally and drank on nights out".

Her father, a devout Muslim, is believed to be in Morocco.

Born in 1989, Hasna Aitboulahcen had a turbulent childhood, part of which she spent in a foster home. Her brother recalls those years, from age eight to 15, as a time when she was "happy and blossomed".

But the foster mother recalled her "applauding in front of the telly" when Al-Qaeda attacked the United States on Sept 11, 2001.

The teen became more difficult, prone to angry outbursts and sneaking out at night before leaving her foster home at 15. Sources close to the inquiry said she had been investigated for drug offences.

More recently, according to her brother, "she spent all her time on her smartphone, on Facebook and WhatsApp".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2015, with the headline 'Female suicide bomber 'used to be party girl''. Print Edition | Subscribe