Paris ringleader planned suicide attack in business district: Prosecutor

Abaaoud had aimed to target the area in the west of the capital where many major French companies have their headquarters.
Abaaoud had aimed to target the area in the west of the capital where many major French companies have their headquarters.REUTERS

PARIS (AFP) - The suspected ringleader of the deadly Paris attacks and an accomplice planned to carry out a suicide attack on the city's La Defense business district the following week, the chief prosecutor said Tuesday.

Revealing the latest findings of the vast investigation into the attacks, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said Abdelhamid Abaaoud had aimed to target the area in the west of the capital where many major French companies have their headquarters.

Belgian national Abaaoud was killed with his female cousin and another man in a ferocious shootout with police at an apartment in northern Paris five days after the series of shootings and suicide bombings on Nov 13 in which 130 people were killed.

"The two terrorists, Abaaoud and the man found next to him, were planning an attack which involved blowing themselves up on Wednesday 18 November or Thursday 19 November, at La Defense," Molins said.

The man killed in the apartment siege who has not yet been identified "is perhaps" the third assailant spotted by witnesses, who sprayed cafe terraces and restaurants with gunfire on Nov 13, killing dozens, the prosecutor said.

Abaaoud's female cousin, Hasna Aitboulahcen, had helped to organise the hideout in Saint-Denis which was attacked in the ferocious shootout with police, the prosecutor said.

"She was absolutely aware of her cousin's implication in the November 13 attacks," he said.

She was first believed to have blown herself up, but the prosecutor said it is now thought she was asphyxiated when another man - the unidentified individual - detonated his explosive vest as police closed in.

Investigators have fingerprints and DNA samples from the man, "but they do not match any records in France", Molins said.

They have been matched to those on a Kalashnikov rifle found in a car thought to have been used in the attacks.

Meanwhile, in Belgium, prosecutors issued an international arrest warrant for a "dangerous" man seen driving a car with key Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam two days before the atrocities.

Mohamed Abrini, 30, was filmed along with Abdeslam at a motorway petrol station in Ressons, north of Paris, in a Renault Clio later used in the attacks, Belgium's federal prosecutor said in a statement.

Abdeslam remains at large, 11 days after the carnage in Paris.

In the French capital, prosecutor Molins revealed that an explosives vest found Monday in a bag of rubbish in the suburb of Montrouge was "exactly the same construction as the others" used by the suicide bombers in the attacks.

Returning to Abaaoud, thought to be an Islamic State operative who had planned other attacks in Europe, the prosecutor said telephone analysis showed he had returned to the scene of the Paris atrocities while the bloody siege at the Bataclan concert venue was still under way.

The Bataclan was the scene of the worst violence - 90 people were killed by three assailants as they attended a rock concert.

The analysis "leads us to believe that Abaaoud returned to the scene of the crimes after the attack carried out on the people sitting at tables at restaurants and while the BRI (elite police) was intervening at the Bataclan", the prosecutor said.

Abaaoud had also been in contact by phone with Bilal Hadfi, one of the suicide bombers who detonated his explosives outside the Stade de France stadium, the prosecutor said.