Female suspect identifed as death toll in Paris attacks rises to 130


The death toll in last week’s Paris terrorist attacks has risen by one to 130, sources close to Prime Minister Manuel Valls confirmed to French media Friday.

The terrorists had “killed without mercy, destroying 130 lives,” Valls was quoted by AFP news agency as saying in an address to the Senate.

The news comes as investigators identified a woman who was killed Wednesday alongside Abdelhamid Abaaoud, believed to have planned the wave of shootings and suicide bombings that was carried out by Islamic State militants on November 13.

The woman has been identified as Hasna Aitboulahcen, prosecutors said in a statement. Some French media have reported that she was Abaaoud’s cousin, but this has yet to be officially confirmed.

Earlier reports that Aitboulahcen had blown herself up during the raid were also put into question, with French media suggesting that she may have been hit by a nearby explosion or killed by police instead.

Forensic work at the apartment in the northern Paris suburb of Saint-Denis has been complicated by the extreme violence that marked the raid. The building was said to be heavily damaged.

A total of three bodies were found after the police operation. The third person has yet to be identified.

One suspect in the November 13 attacks, Salah Abdeslam, is still on the run, but he was thought to have been brought from Paris to the Belgian capital Brussels. The 26-year-old is a presumed Paris attacker. His brother Brahim was among the dead suicide bombers.

Abaaoud, a 28-year-old Belgian of Moroccan origin, had quickly been suspected of masterminding the attacks.

But there were questions on Friday whether he might also have taken part in the killings, after several media reported that he had been filmed about an hour after the start of the attacks by a security camera at the Croix de Chavaux metro station.

The subway stop, in an eastern suburb of the French capital, is close to where one of the suspects’ cars, a black Seat, was found.

Also on Friday, French President Francois Hollande announced that a ceremony to commemorate the victims will be held on November 27 at 10:30 am (0930 GMT) in the courtyard of the Hotel National des Invalides, a military museum and war veterans’ complex.

Broadcaster Europe 1 had reported earlier that Hollande was going to lead the service with a solemn speech, while national guards were expected to carry a picture of each of the victims.

It said that a decision was taken not to hold the service earlier to allow time for injured people to heal so that they could attend, and to allow families of the victims to organize funerals and observe a period of mourning.

People are also expected to gather in front of the attack sites this Friday evening to honour the victims.

But authorities have been keen to prevent large gatherings of people amid fears of a new attack. A ban on public demonstrations remains in place in the French capital and surrounding areas.

Police searches targeting terrorism and crime suspects have also been stepped up in France as part of its state of emergency.

Almost 800 searches have been carried out over five nights, with 90 people in custody for questioning, 174 weapons seized and 64 drug discoveries made, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said in a statement issued on Friday afternoon.

Belgian police have also been investigating the Paris attacks, with several assailants having lived in Brussels.

Four people remain in custody in Belgium, prosecutors said Friday in a statement. They include one person linked to Paris suicide bomber Bilal Hadfi, one person detained in conjunction with the probe into the Paris attack, and the two men who are reported to have driven Salah Abdeslam from Paris to Brussels.