Paris terror attacks: female suicide bomber Hasna Aitboulahcen liked wearing cowboy hats but joined an Islamic State terror cell
Friends knew Hasna Aitboulahcen as an extrovert girl who liked wearing cowboy hats. But she went on to blow herself up when Police stormed the terrorist lair where she was holed up
Published 19/11/2015 | 13:17
To her friends and neighbours she was bubbly and outgoing, if a bit “clueless”.
But on Wednesday morning Hasna Aitboulahcen, earned the dubious distinction of becoming Europe’s first woman suicide bomber.
More has now begun to emerge about the 26-year-old who blew herself up as police stormed the flat where she was holed up with two fellow Islamic State terrorists.
One of the two men killed in the siege was thought to be her cousin Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the mastermind of last Friday’s Paris attacks which left 132 dead.
Aitboulahcen had appeared at a window to the flat shortly after 6am, as police special forces accompanied by soldiers moved in.
She was later heard screaming 'help me, help me!', moments before detonating a suicide vest packed full of explosives as armed French anti-terror police stormed the flat.
Stephane Colas, 41, who lives near the Rue de la Republique, said: "I was woken at about 5am by a police helicopter going round and round," he said. "I went outside to see what was happening and the police were going house to house. They were saying 'evacuate, evacuate'."
Aitboulahcen appeared at a window, shouting "help me, help me", perhaps to lure the police in. She was told that if she did not stay where she was, she would be shot, but went back inside.
At around 6am, police began a fresh assault. Their targets were ready for them, wearing their suicide vests. Aitboulahcen was the first to open fire during the fresh exchange, using a Kalashnikov assault rifle.
The police tried to talk to Aitboulahcen, asking her: "Where's your boyfriend?"
"He's not my boyfriend!" she screamed in reply. Seconds later, she detonated a suicide vest, killing herself and causing the floor of the apartment to collapse. The explosion was so violent that her spine was later found lying in the street outside.
Seen posing here, making V signs to the camera, she appears like any playful young woman.
Indeed people who knew her described her as an 'extrovert' who drank alcohol and was nicknamed 'the cowgirl' for her habit of wearing cowboy hats.
A former acquaintance in the town of Creutzwald, near Metz, where she frequently visited her father, told the Républicain Lorrain newspaper: "She was an extravert, a bit lost .She didn't really look like a suicide bomber and she drank alcohol."
Another said: “We remember her well. She liked to go by the name of 'the cowgirl' because she wore a big hat".
However, neighbours said he had not been seen in the town in the past five years.
Since she was last seen in Creutzwald she has clearly been radicalised, judging by her Facebook page, which Belgian news website DH.be has seen.
In it she can be seen wearing a niqab and brandishing firearms. She also wrote messages praising Hayat Boumeddienne - the wife of Amedy Coulibaly, the Jewish supermarket killer in Paris last January - who fled to Syria.
Like Boumeddienne she tried to travel to Syria, but never managed to. She is said to have written on her Facebook page in pigeon French: "I’ll soon by on my way to Syria God willing. Soon leaving for Turkey.”
Having failed to join IS overseas she subsequently "offered her services to commit terrorist attacks in France", according to French police sources.
She was placed under "triple surveillance" by French intelligence, judges and police for drugs running and terror activities.
Aitboulahcen’s family is understood to have arrived in France in 1973 and settled in the Paris region, where she was born in 1989, in the suburb of Clichy-la-Garenne.
At one stage she was the director of a building firm called Beko Construction, set up in 2011 at Épinay-sur-Seine. The firm - which police are understood to be investigating for possible links to money-laundering and terror funding, went into liquidation last year.
The flat where Aitboulahcen died with her two fellow-terrorists is close to the Stade de France, where three fellow terrorists blew themselves up last Friday, during a failed attempt to kill thousands of football fans attending the France-Germany.
Moroccan intelligence played a part in pointing the finger at Aitboulahcen, leading to the flat where she was staying, according to Le Monde.
Her father, 75, left Creutzwald and moved back to Morocco six months ago, according to the town's mayor.
Police carried out a large scale search of the district around his flat inthe impasse du Dauphiné on Wednesday night.
Jean-Luc Wosniak, the mayor of Creutzwald, said: "(The father), 75, from Marakkesh, settled in Creutzwald in the 1970s. Since July, he has returned to live in Morocco but keeps a pied a terre in Creutzwald."