Hasna Aitboulahcen, 26, died on Wednesday morning after she blew herself up as authorities approached

By Peter Mikelbank and Tara Fowler
Updated November 19, 2015 01:15 PM
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Credit: DH/Les sports

The cousin of the suspected mastermind behind the Paris terror attacks was an outgoing woman who’d recently begun to express her desire to take up the jihad cause.

Hasna Aitboulahcen, 26, died on Wednesday morning after she blew herself up as authorities descended on a tiny apartment in the northern Paris suburb of Saint-Denis.

Witnesses said a woman with long blonde hair, later identified as Aitboulahcen, stuck her head out the window, screaming, “help me, help me,” according to French newspaper Le Parisien.

In a video of the incident, authorities can be heard calling for her to identify herself, shouting, “Who’s your friend?” Aitboulahcen answers, “He’s not my friend,” then detonates her explosive belt.

The force of the blast tore her body apart, complicating officials’ efforts to identify her, Sky News reports.

Aitboulahcen was a cousin of 27-year-old Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the man believed to have orchestrated last Friday’s attacks in Paris. Abaaoud also died on Wednesday – his bullet-riddled body was discovered following a seven-hour siege, French prosecutors confirmed Thursday. He was identified by his fingerprints.

Wiretaps of Aitboulahcen’s phone conversations with Abaaoud reportedly led investigators to the apartment. He arrived just a few hours before the raid was carried out.

The Cowboy Woman

Aitboulahcen was born in Clichy-la-Garenne, a Parisian suburb, but had most recently lived with her father in Creutzwald, according to Le Républicain Lorrain.

His neighbors described her as “outgoing,” saying they never suspected she’d be involved in something like this. She drank alcohol and was called the “cowboy woman” because she always wore a big hat.

But Aitboulahcen’s online behavior tells a different story. On Facebook, she repeatedly expressed her desire to go to Syria and wage jihad, La Dernière Heure reports.

And Aitboulahcen didn’t hide her admiration for Hayat Boumeddiene, the widow of Amédy Coulibaly, the terrorist who took over a kosher supermarket in Paris last January during the attacks on Charlie Hebdo.

Neighbors said they hadn’t seen Aitboulahcen in five years, though it’s believed she still visited her father from time to time. On Wednesday evening, police searched the small town of Creutzwald in an effort to learn more about the woman who blew herself up.

The last mention of Aitboulahcen in public documents was more than two years ago, when she was appointed the manager of a French company, Beko Construction. That firm shuttered its doors last year.

Altogether, 129 people died in Friday’s attacks at six different locations. President Fran ois Hollande has said his country is “at war” with ISIS following the attacks.