Witness Tells French Media Of Meeting With Leader Of Paris Attacks

Feb 4, 2016
Originally published on February 4, 2016 7:45 pm
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A woman told French media today that the man who organized the Paris terrorist attacks was calm and proud after he and his men killed 130 people. The unnamed witness who is now under police protection said that she spoke to him just after the attacks. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley has this report.

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UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Foreign language spoken).

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: The witness appeared on French TV news channel BFM. Her voice was scrambled and her profile unrecognizable in heavy shadow. She said she had met the purported ringleader of the Paris attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, two days after the killings. She was with a friend who, unbeknownst to her, was about Abaaoud's cousin. He asked his relative to find him an apartment where he could stay for a couple of days.

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UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Foreign language spoken).

BEARDSLEY: The witness said Abaaoud bragged about killing people at the cafes and said he said he'd been sent to make sure the attacks were effective. The woman quoted Abaaoud as saying around 90 jihadists of many nationalities had easily slipped into Europe from Syria and were still in the Paris region. He said they were planning further attacks.

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UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Foreign language spoken).

BEARDSLEY: The witness told BFM she feared for her life and has no contact with friends or family and is cut off from the world. Criminologist Alain Bauer says it's a classic case of someone cracking under the strains of a witness protection program.

ALAIN BAUER: Well, of course she is afraid, and she never thought this would be this way. And it's a big change in your life.

BEARDSLEY: The Paris prosecutor is now investigating whether the media may have obstructed the investigation and put the witness's life in danger by broadcasting the interview. Bauer says the prosecutor is probably trying to prevent further leaks. The witness says it was she who called the hotline and told police of Abaaoud's whereabouts. A few hours later, Abaaoud, his cousin and another suspect were killed in a police raid on their apartment north of Paris. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.