World

Suspected suicide bomber used to be a party girl

Paris attacks aftermath

The woman who died during the police raid that killed the suspected ringleader of the Paris attacks used to be a party girl with a penchant for cowboy hats.

Hasna Ait Boulahcen had swopped her party-girl persona for that of an Islamist radical just months ago.

Her story is that of a young woman from a broken home with an unstable disposition, who was nicknamed "Cowgirl" because of her penchant for cowboy hats before her dramatic conversion to radical Islam.

During Wednesday's raid in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis, she was heard responding to a member of the crack police team that was hunting for her cousin, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the alleged planner of the attacks that killed 129 people last Friday.

"Where's your boyfriend, where is he?" the officer was heard shouting on a clip filmed by local residents. "He's not my boyfriend!" a high-pitched voice screamed back.

Several explosions were then heard. It was previously thought that Ait Boulahcen detonated an explosives vest.

The BBC reported that French officials said she did not blow herself up in a police raid and that the suicide bomber was a man.

Her mother and brother told AFP on Thursday that they recognised Ait Boulahcen's voice from the recording.

Her brother said she had suddenly become radicalised about six months ago and began wearing the niqab, which covers the face.

"She was unstable, she created her own bubble. She wasn't looking to study religion, I have never even seen her open a Quran," he told AFP.

BRAINWASHING

"It's brainwashing," added her 58-year-old mother, with whom she had been living in the gritty Paris suburb of Aulnay-sous-Bois until a few weeks ago.

In the eastern town of Creutzwald, near the German border, where Ait Boulahcen's 74-year-old father lives, her long-time friend Jerome described her as a cowboy hat-and-boots-wearing party girl who "smoked and boozed".

Born in 1989, Ait Boulahcen had spent a part of her turbulent childhood in a foster home. Her brother recalls her years in care, from age eightc to 15, as a time when she was "happy and blossomed".

"Initially, everything went well. She was a kid like any other," albeit markedly unaffectionate, her former foster mother told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

But then things took a turn for the worse.

Her foster mother, who wept when she saw Ait Boulahcen's picture on television, recalled her young charge "applauding in front of the telly" when the US was attacked on Sept 11, 2001.

More recently, according to her brother, "she spent all her time on her smartphone, on Facebook and Whatsapp".

Three weeks ago, she went to live with a friend in the suburb of Drancy, he said, a town a short drive away from Aulnay-sous-Bois.

"We are really sad for all the victims," he added.

 


 


 

Paris attacksISISterrorismUncategorisedSingapore Police Forcesuicide