The chilling plot to bomb Paris business district

More details have emerged of how the Paris terror ringleader and an unnamed accomplice planned to launch a suicide bomb attack on Paris's La Defense business district.

The chilling plot to bomb Paris business district
The Quatre-Temps shopping centre where terrorists planned to hit. Photo: AFP

In the end Abdelhamid Abaaoud was “neutralized” in a police raid before he could take any more lives.

Abaaoud is judged by authorities to have been the commander and chief plotter of the Paris attacks as well as one of the gunmen who killed dozens on terraces at bars and restaurants.

His finger prints were found on one of the Kalashnikovs left behind in the car dumped in eastern Paris.

And on Tuesday French prosecutor François Molins confirmed rumours that had been swirling around since the Belgian-Moroccan jihadist was killed in the November 18th Saint Denis raid – rumours that he had planned to target the La Defense business district.

The attack on the area, which is home to the headquarters of many of the biggest companies in France, was to be carried out on either November 17th or 18th, while France was still reeling from the attacks on the 13th.

According to reports in the French media, Abaaoud had asked his cousin to buy two suits that he and an unnamed fellow bomber would wear to blend in with the 180,000 financiers and bankers who descend on La Defense each day.

Two suit covers were found in the Saint-Denis apartment where he was killed.

La Defense is Europe's biggest business district and home to around 3,000 companies.

It is believed that Abaaoud, who intelligence services had presumed was in Syria, had two specific targets in mind.

First was the huge Quatre-Temps shopping centre, which is visited by 45 million shoppers each year and stands in the heart of the district.

The second was the district's police station.

At both locations it is believed the terrorists planned to blow themselves up with the same kind of suicide bomb vests used by those who attacked the Stade de France and the Bataclan concert hall on November 13th.

During the police raid in Saint-Denis a man believed to be Abaaoud’s accomplice blew himself up using a vest.

Another disturbing detail of Friday’s attacks revealed on Tuesday by prosecutors was that Abaaoud and his accomplice, who police are yet to identify, revisited the scene of their crimes on the night of Friday 13th.

Mobile phone data shows that Abaaoud visited the 12th, 11th and 10th arrondissements after he is presumed to have dumped the car used in the terrace shootings in the eastern suburb of Montreuil.

Prosecutors believe that Abaaoud visited the scene of the Bataclan siege while the police raid to free hostages was still ongoing.

He is then believed to made his way to Abervilliers to meet his cousin Hasna Aitboulahcen, before the pair headed to the squat in Saint-Denis later raided by police.

Aitboulahcen was also killed in Wednesday's raid at Saint-Denis.

Prosecutors are still hunting for Salah Abdeslam, who is now believed to have ditched his suicide vest in a bin to the south of Paris.

Investigators suspect Abdeslam was due to carry out an attack in the 18th arrondissement before changing his mind and going on the run, from both police and Isis.

He is believed to be holed up in Belgium.


US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks

US Vice President Kamala Harris and French Prime Minister Jean Castex laid wreaths at a Paris cafe and France's national football stadium Saturday six years since deadly terror attacks that left 130 people dead.

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks
US Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff lay flowers after ceremonies at Le Carillon bar and Le Petit Cambodge restaurant, at which 130 people were killed during the 2015 Paris terror attacks. Photo: Sarahbeth Maney/POOL/AFP

The attacks by three separate teams of Islamic State group jihadists on the night of November 13, 2015 were the worst in France since World War II.

Gunmen mowed down 129 people in front of cafes and at a concert hall in the capital, while a bus driver was killed after suicide bombers blew themselves up at the gates of the stadium in its suburbs.

Harris, wrapping up a four-day trip to France, placed a bouquet of white flowers in front of a plaque honouring the victims outside a Paris cafe.

Castex attended a minute of silence at the Stade de France football stadium, along with Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, before laying wreaths at the sites of the other attacks inside Paris.

In front of the Bataclan concert hall, survivors and relatives of the victims listened to someone read out the names of each of the 90 people killed during a concert there six years ago.

Public commemorations of the tragedy were called off last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Last year we weren’t allowed to come and we all found it really tough,” said Bruno Poncet, who made it out alive of the Bataclan.

But he said the start of a trial over the attacks in September meant that those attending the commemoration this year felt more united.

‘Overcome it all’

“We’ve really bonded thanks to the trial,” he said. “During previous commemorations, we’d spot each other from afar without really daring to speak to each other. We were really shy. But standing up in court has really changed everything.”

The marathon trial, the biggest in France’s modern legal history, is expected to last until May 2022.

Twenty defendants are facing sentences of up to life in prison, including the sole attacker who was not gunned down by police, Salah Abdeslam, a French-Moroccan national who was captured in Brussels. Six of the defendants are being tried in absentia.

Poncet said he felt it was crucial that he attend the hearings. “I can’t possibly not. It’s our lives that are being discussed in that room, and it’s important to come to support the others and to try to overcome it all.”

Survivors have taken to the witness stand to recount the horror of the attacks, but also to describe life afterwards.

Several said they had been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, grappling with survivor’s guilt, or even feeling alienated from the rest of society.

Saturday’s commemorations are to wrap up with a minute of silence at the Stade de France in the evening before the kick-off for a game between France and Kazakhstan.

It was during a football match between France and Germany that three suicide bombers blew themselves up in 2015.

Then-French president Francois Hollande was one of the 80,000 people in the crowd, before he was discreetly whisked away to avoid triggering mass panic.