Hasna Ait Boulahcen was not the suicide bomber who triggered a massive explosion inside of a Paris apartment complex in St. Denis filled with ISIS sympathizers and terrorists who were engaged in a seven-hour standoff with French police forces. Media outlets had widely reported that Hasna had become Europe’s first female suicide bomber, but officials later confirmed she was a victim of the explosion and did not detonate the suicide vest.
Reports BBC News on Nov. 20: “French officials say the cousin of the presumed ringleader of last week’s Paris attacks did not blow herself up in a police raid as previously thought. They say the suicide bomber was a man, not Hasna Ait Boulahcen, who also died in Wednesday’s raid. Her cousin, alleged ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud, was also killed.”
The 26-year-old of Moroccan descent immigrated to France with her parents, but was shortly after transferred into the foster care system. French authorities had been wiretapping her phone as they attempted to confirm her involvement in a drug deal when they tracked her to the flat in Saint Denis after the Nov. 13 coordinated attacks.
Boulahcen’s brother, who declined to be identified, told BBC News that his sister had a sad childhood, but said he doesn’t think she was completely radicalized by ISIS into an armed militant as defined in Islamic fundamentalism.
“I never saw her open the Koran. She was permanently on her phone, looking at Facebook or WhatsApp,” her brother said, admitting however that he had not spoken to her in over five years. “I told her to stop all this, but she would not listen. She told me I was not her dad, or her husband. 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, who started wearing traditional Muslim clothing, began posting extremist thoughts on Facebook a few years ago her friends said – even discussing whether she should go to Syria – though they said they didn’t really believe she was serious.
“We thought it was to impress people,” one friend, who went to school with Boulahcen, told BBC. “We never thought she would go ahead with it. We thought it was to make people talk. 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.”
The Toronto Sun, which falsely claimed she was the suicide bomber, said Boulahcen’s friends described her as a “party girl” with “lots of boyfriends” who was not particularly religious. Witnesses told the Independent that Boulahcen reportedly screamed for help, shouting “Help me, help me! I am on fire,” moments before the bomb was detonated.
In the end, two terrorists were killed along with Boulahcen, and five people were arrested. Officials said they believe the men were part of a second terrorist cell planning additional attacks in Paris.
An Associated Press report on female suicide bombers over the years said that while “most suicide bombers are men, Islamic militant groups have occasionally deployed women to carry out such attacks. Long before the rise of Islamic radicalism, women suicide bombers were used by leftist and separatist groups in the Arab world and beyond.”