Published November 19, 2015
Hasna Aitboulahcen lived a secular life, drinking alcohol and rarely visiting a mosque, but police say she died an extremist's death: blowing herself up by detonating a suicide vest.
The 26-year-old daughter of a Moroccan immigrant had been under police surveillance because her name came up in a drug-trafficking case, said a police union official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to talk to media.
Aitboulahcen died Wednesday as police closed in on an apartment in suburban Saint-Denis, along with Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the man suspected of orchestrating the Nov. 13 attacks across Paris that killed 129 people. It was not known if she had any role in the attacks.
Also unclear is her exact connection to the 28-year-old Abaaoud, the son of a Moroccan-born shopkeeper in Brussels. Three police officials said Aitboulahcen often described herself as his "cousin," but the term also is used by young French of North African descent to refer to close friends who are no blood relation.
Her final moments were marked by a brief, angry exchange with police during the siege.
"Where is your boyfriend?" an officer demanded, according to an official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose details of the investigation.
She replied: "He's not my boyfriend!"
Then there was an explosion, which police said was the detonation of the bomb in her vest.
Parts of her mangled body were blown onto a police car parked outside the apartment where she and nine others, including Abaaoud, engaged in an hours-long standoff.
Born in the Paris suburb of Clichy-la-Garenne, Aitboulahcen moved to the eastern French town of Creutzwald with her parents and four siblings when she was 16.
She had a sister and two brothers, Creutzwald Mayor Jean-Luc Wozniak, told The Associated Press. He added that the four siblings spent some time in foster care, and the family moved into an apartment located in a housing project in 2006.
Some years later Aitboulahcen left Creutzwald and settled in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, returning occasionally to visit her father, Wozniak said.
Her father, who was born in Marrakech, and her older sister moved to Morocco, the mayor added.
Two years ago, Aitboulahcen briefly managed a construction company based in the Paris suburb of Epinay-sur-Seine that went bankrupt less than 10 months later, according to an official registry of company filings.
Neighbors and relatives quoted by French media said she drank alcohol and rarely attended a mosque.
Because her name came up in a drug-trafficking case, Aitboulahcen was under surveillance, and her movements may have led authorities to the Saint-Denis flat.
Authorities had tapped her phone at the time of the raid, according to two police officials, also speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to media. They did not say when the wiretap began.