Europe

Paris attacks: Who was Hasna Ait Boulahcen?

Hasna Aitboulahcen Image copyright Rex
Image caption Hasna Ait Boulahcen died during a police raid in Saint-Denis

Hasna Ait Boulahcen, 26, died in a police raid on a Saint-Denis flat alongside the suspected ringleader of the Paris attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud.

Boulahcen was born and grew up in Clichy-la-Garenne, a suburb close to Saint-Denis, but is of Moroccan descent.

She was the daughter of Moroccan immigrants who moved to France in the early 1970s, according to local media.

Police had been tapping her phone as part of a drugs investigation and tracked her to the Saint-Denis flat following last week's deadly attacks in Paris.

She was seen leading Abaaoud - thought to be her cousin - into a building the night before the raid.

The circumstances of her death are unclear, with French officials contradicting initial reports that she had detonated a suicide vest during the raid.

'Sad childhood'

Those who knew her say she had a troubled upbringing in foster care.

One woman, who said Boulahcen's mother sometimes looked after her children, told the BBC: "She had a sad childhood. There were problems in the family."

But even those who best knew Boulahcen never thought she would become radicalised.

"I never saw her open the Koran. She was permanently on her phone, looking at Facebook or WhatsApp," her brother said.

"I told her to stop all this, but she would not listen. She told me I was not her dad, or her husband."

It is unclear when Boulahcen began having extremist thoughts. Her brother admitted he had not spoken to her properly for five years.

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Media captionKhemissa: "I don't think [Hasna Ait Boulahcen] had the intention to be a suicide bomber. She was influenced. She was vulnerable."

However, she called him two days after the attacks.

"On Sunday at 7pm she called me because I had called her - and she sounded like she had given up on life.

"On the rare occasions I spoke to her it was to tell her to behave better, to have a better attitude, to be more easy-going about her strict dress code."

Boulahcen is thought to have started wearing a full face veil a year ago.

'Model kid'

During that time, she began posting extremist thoughts on Facebook. In one post, she expresses sympathy for Hayat Boumedienne, the widow of a gunman in the Charlie Hebdo attacks.

She even went as far as posting about her plans to go to Syria, but friends did not believe her.

"We thought it was to impress people," said Khemissa, who went to school with her.

"We never thought she would go ahead with it. We thought it was to make people talk."

Even at school Boulahcen was a "model kid", she said.

"She went to school, she got good grades, we went to dance class together.

"I think she must have been drugged. She must have taken substances. She was not in a normal state, otherwise she wouldn't have done that."

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Hasna was killed in a flat in Saint Denis along with 'ringleader' Abaaoud, thought to be her cousin

Boulahcen was registered as the manager of a construction company, Beko Construction, which liquidated in 2014.

She left her mother's flat three weeks ago and went to live with a friend in Drancy, north-east Paris, where one of the gunmen lived.

In a clip filmed by a local resident of Wednesday morning's raid, a police officer can be heard shouting: "Where is your boyfriend?" to which a female voice responds: "He's not my boyfriend!"

Boulahcen's mother told AFP she recognised the voice as her daughter's, adding: "It's brainwashing".