The woman who gave French police the vital tip-off about the secret hiding place of the mastermind of the Paris attacks has revealed the terrifying moment she met Abdelhamid Abaaoud.
‘I’d seen him on TV,’ the woman said, recalling how she had accompanied Abaaoud’s cousin Hasna Aitboulahcen to the fugitive’s secret hiding place in a wooded area near the suburb of Aubervillier.
Realising his intentions to carry out another massacre, she tried to get Aitboulahcen drunk to stop her helping Abaaoud before secretly informing police of his plans.
Now living under police protection and fearful for her life, the woman told The Washington Post that she was a surrogate mother to Aitboulahcen and struggled with feelings of guilt over her death.
‘It’s important that the world knows that I am Muslim myself. It’s important to me that people know what Abaaoud and the others did is not what Islam is teaching,’ she said, explaining why she informed the police.
The woman explained that Hasna Aitboulahcen stayed with her for three years but suffered with spells of drug abuse and heavy drinking when she would disappear for several weeks.
She described the change in Hasna’s behaviour when she started to message someone in Syria, according to French investigators files.
It is unclear who she was in contact with but it is likely it was her cousin Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who had travelled out to Syria in 2013 and risen through the ranks of ISIS to head up their external terror team.
The jihadi had taunted intelligence services in an interview in ISIS’s propaganda magazine, boasting how he had made multiple trips back to Europe from Syria undetected.
Aitboulahcen started to wear a niqab and talked about marrying her cousin Abaaoud despite videos emerging online of him boasting of war crimes and driving truck filled with dead corpses.
It is thought that although she was in regular contact, Aitboulahcen was unaware that Abaaoud was involved in the Paris attacks until she met him in the woods.
The friend said she remembered how when she told Aitboulahcen about the attacks on the night of 13 November, she simply said: ‘They’re all unbelievers. Nothing can happen to me.’
According to the woman, Aitboulahcen received an a phone call two nights after the terror attacks. The caller claimed to be calling on behalf of her cousin but was using a Belgian number.
Unconvinced, she hung up only for the same number to call again and tell her that they needed her to find accommodation ‘for no more than a day or two’.
Excited by the request, she quickly asked what they needed and said she hoped it was not a joke, the friend said.
On the night she met Abaaoud, Aitboulachen was delighted, rejoicing at the sight of him, the woman recalled before describing how she felt the need to question his actions.
Abaaoud gave his cousin 5,000 Euros and told her to find accommodation for him and his associate.
He also asked her to buy smart suits and shoes, which he is believed to have intended to use as a disguise for a second attack on Paris’s business district.
The woman said she asked him why he had hurt so many people but the jihadi confidently claimed that Paris ‘was nothing’ and warned of further attacks from many other militants in Europe.
The Belgian jihadi later called his cousin and threatened to kill the woman if she spoke to anyone about the meeting.
Realising the seriousness of the situation, the friend tried unsuccessfully to get Aitboulahcen drunk in order to prevent her carrying out Abaaoud’s request.
The next day she secretly rang the emergency intelligence online and explained everything that was said at the meeting.
Security services picked up Aitboulachen’s calls and watched her view properties the following day.
On the Tuesday night, the St Denis flat which Aitboulahcen had rented for 150 Euros was raided. The police had been given the address by Aitboulahcen’s friend.
Heavy gunfire was exchanged between French Special Forces and the fugitives before Chakib Akrouh’s suicide vest detonated.
The ceiling caved in killing Abaaoud and crushing Aitboulahcen to death.
Despite her extraordinary bravery in informing police about Abaaoud and her friend Hasna Aitboulahcen, the woman says she still lives in fear.
Abaaoud may be dead but for the woman who stopped him, his threat still haunts her life everyday as she lives in fear that she could be targeted by an ISIS operative.