Suspected mastermind of Paris attacks is dead, French police say

November 19, 2015, 1:20 PM UTC
PARIS, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 18:  Police technicians gather evidenc
PARIS, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 18: Police technicians gather evidence at the scene where two suspected terrorists died in a seige this morning in the Saint-Denis neighborhood in Paris, France on November 18, 2015. Early this morning french police exchanged gunfire and killed two people that may be connected to the Paris terrorist attacks last friday. Police say one of the suspects, a woman, blew herself up. Officials have not yet confirmed whether alleged leader Abdelhamid Abaaoud was in the area after the massive raid that prompted a seven-hour siege. (Photo by Linda Davidson / The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Photograph by Linda Davidson — The Washington Post/Getty Images

Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected mastermind behind last week’s devastating terrorist attacks in Paris, is dead, French police confirmed Thursday.

The 28 year-old jihadist was killed when police stormed an apartment in the Paris district of Saint-Denis Wednesday morning, BFM TV cited Paris’s chief prosecutor as saying. His body was formally identified Thursday on the basis of skin samples.

French officials said Wednesday’s action had prevented another terrorist outrage. A woman who had already donned a suicide vest died when she detonated it in the early stages of the seven-hour raid.

The news will come as a huge relief to French officials who are facing not only a nationwide security crisis, but also trying to control a backlash from anti-Islamic vigilantes. Police have registered at least 24 attacks since Nov. 13 on Muslim citizens, according to AFP.

Abaaoud, whose family had migrated to Belgium from Morocco, had allegedly been involved in more than one terrorist attack in Europe over the last two years. The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that he had first enlisted with Islamic State in Syria in early 2014, and rose quickly through the ranks. He assumed an active role in recruiting jihadis across Europe as he shuttled back and forth with alarming ease between Syria and Europe.