Top suspect seen on CCTV in metro during Paris attacks

The top suspect behind the Paris attacks has been seen on CCTV footage recorded at the Croix de Chavaux metro station

Published: Updated:

The top suspect behind the Paris attacks has been seen on CCTV footage recorded at a metro station while the massacre that killed 129 people was still under way, a police source said on Friday.

Abdelhamid Abaaoud was killed in a gun battle on Wednesday when police raided a house in a Paris suburb where he was holed up. Prosecutors said a total of three people were killed in the pre-dawn operation.

Abaaoud can be seen on closed circuit TV footage at the Croix de Chavaux metro station in the Paris suburb of Montreuil, not far from where one of the cars used in the attacks was found, the police source said.

He was spotted on the tape at 10:14 p.m. (2114 GMT) last Friday evening after shootings at several cafes and suicide bombings near a packed football stadium had taken place, but while an attack was still under way at a concert hall.

A petty criminal who went to fight in Syria in 2013, Abaaoud is believed to have recruited similar young men from immigrant families in his native Brussels district of Molenbeek and elsewhere in Belgium and France.

Before the attacks, European governments thought that Abaaoud was still in Syria.

Abaaoud's mangled body was identified on Thursday. A woman's body was identified as Hasna Aitboulahcen. Identification of the third body was still in progress.

In the debris, a handbag was found containing a passport in the name of Aitboulahcen. A source said previously that a woman with that name may have blown herself up during the raid and may be a cousin of Abaaoud.

Moroccan-born Abaaoud, 28, was accused of orchestrating last Friday's attacks. Seven assailants died in the attacks and a suspected eighth is still on the run.

Even before last week's attacks, Abaaoud was one of Islamic State's highest-profile European recruits, appearing in the group's slick online English-language magazine Dabiq, where he boasted of crossing European borders to stage attacks.

The group, which controls swathes of Iraq and Syria, has attracted thousands of young Europeans, and Abaaoud was seen as a leading figure in luring others to join, particularly from his home country Belgium.

Disowned by family

He claimed to have escaped a continent-wide manhunt after a police raid in Belgium in 2013 in which two other militants were killed. His own family has disowned him, accusing him of abducting his 13-year-old brother, who was later promoted on the Internet as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria's youngest foreign fighter in Syria.

While quickly tracking him down will be seen as a major success for French authorities, his presence in Paris will focus more attention on the difficulty European security services have in monitoring the continent's borders.

Europe's interior ministers were meeting on Friday and were expected to tighten security measures and external border checks.

France has called for changes to the functioning of the EU's Schengen border-free travel zone, which normally does not monitor the entry and exit of citizens of its 26 countries.

Hundreds of thousands of people have reached Europe as Syrian refugees in recent months, including at least one person using a passport found at the scene of Friday's attacks.

The French National Assembly voted to extend the state of emergency for three months on Thursday. Belgium, stung by revelations that several of the attackers were based there, announced a 400-million-euro ($430 million) security crackdown.

France has called for a global coalition to defeat the group and has launched air strikes on Raqqa, the de-facto ISIS capital in northern Syria, since the weekend. Russia has also targeted the city in retribution for the downing of a Russian airliner last month that killed 224.

In Britain, police warned the government that planned budget cuts may significantly reduce their ability to respond to a Paris-style militant attack.