It's official: Paris attacks 'mastermind' killed in raids

FRENCH prosecutors have confirmed suspected mastermind of Paris attacks Abdelhamid Abaaoud was killed in a police raid.

The Paris prosecutor said in a statement that Abaaoud's body was found in an apartment building targeted in the raid in Saint-Denis north of Paris Wednesday.

It said he was identified based on "skin samples" - that's been interpreted by the BBC as fingerprints, but that may be a mistranslation.

Officials had said earlier that they were having difficulty confirming the identity of two suspects who died in Wednesday morning's major raid, because of the condition the bodies were in.

Security sources had nonetheless told The Independent it was believed one was Abaaoud, while the other has been reported to be Abaaoud's 26-year-old female cousin, Hasna Aitboulahcen.

Despite the intelligence that Abaaoud was hiding out in the flat in Saint-Dernis, it took officials such a long time to identify his body because of the state the building was left in after the raid, it has emerged.

Georges Salinas, the deputy commander of the elite BRI police unit, said in a radio interview that identification took so long because the entire third floor of the building at 8, Rue de Corbillion had collapsed.

A number of police officials have now also confirmed that a woman killed during the in Saint-Dernis was the cousin of alleged mastermind Abaaoud.

One official said Hasna Aitboulahcen was believed to have detonated a suicide vest after a brief exchange with police officers.

According to the official, one of the officers asked: "Where is your boyfriend?" and she responded angrily: "He's not my boyfriend!" Then there was an explosion.

The bodies recovered in the raid were badly damaged, complicating formal identification.

The officials say the woman's exact relationship with Abaaoud has not been confirmed. The officials all spoke to news agencies on condition of anonymity because they were not permitted to divulge details of the investigation.

The location of Abaaoud's death will not reflect well on either the French or the Belgium security services, who had previously stated he was in Syria or Isis-controlled territories.

Abaaoud was born in Belgium and grew up in the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek, which had become a key focus for investigators in recent days.Although studying at a Catholic school, he became involved in petty crime with his family shocked when he took his 13-year-old brother Younes with him to travel to Syria in January 2014.

Like many who travel to the so-called "Islamic State", his actions appear to have been motivated by a thirst for power, violence and unaccountability than religion. "They did not even go to the mosque," the brothers' older sister Yasmina told the New York Times earlier this year.

Abaaoud, after being trained and further radicalised in Syria, returned to Europe via Athens. In the months preceeding the attack, he gave an interview to Isis-propaganda magazine Dabiq in which he claimed a Belgium police officer had detained him, but allowed him to go after failing to recognise him. The interview led security officials to believe Abaaoud was in Syria.

He was also linked to foiled terror attacks in Europe, including one aboard a Paris-bound high speed train that was prevented by two US soldiers overpowering the attacker.