The woman who led the French authorities to Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the mastermind behind last November’s terrorist atrocity in Paris, has said that 90 jihadis who posed as migrants are currently in Paris. Despite foiling further attacks including a planned attack on a that nursery, she says she has been abandoned by the state and forced to move from hotel to hotel to avoid reprisals.
In desperation, the 26-year-old known only by the pseudonym ‘Sonia’ has now spoken to BFM TV about the events of that day in the aftermath of the attack, and about her life since handing over the terrorist ringleader. She has revealed that at least 90 more jihadis from Syria are among the migrants who have entered France in the last year.
On the 15th November, two days after the attack which claimed the lives of 130 Parisians, Sonia was with her lifelong friend Hasna Ait Boulahcen, Abaaoud’s cousin, when Boulahcen received a call on her mobile phone. She was instructed to go to 2 Rue des Bergeries in Aubervilliers, in Seine-Saint-Denis, and pick up someone who was in need of accommodation.
The address turned out to be an isolated industrial estate, where from behind a bush, out stepped Abaaoud. Until this point Sonia, along with the rest of France, assumed that he had already fled to Syria.
“He was smiling, he didn’t look at all like a terrorist,” said Sonia.
She asked him: “Did you take part in what happened on November 13?”
“He said, just like that: ‘The terraces, that was me’,” an apparent reference to the attacks on people sitting outside restaurants in central Paris.
“I said: ‘But you killed people, you killed innocent people’,” said Sonia.
“He said: ‘No they’re not innocent. You must see what’s happening to us in Syria.’
“I saw that he was proud of himself, that he wasn’t scared of anyone,” she related. “He was telling the story as though he had gone shopping and found a good bargain. He was happy.”
Keeping a cool head, Sonia asked Abaaoud how he had managed to regain entry to France. He told her that it had been easy to pass himself off as a migrant with no documents, adding “France is useless”. Whatsmore, he told Sonia that he had travelled with a group of about 90 fellow jihadis, including Syrians, Iraqis, French, German and British citizens. “He said they were spread around everywhere in the Paris region,” she said.
But there were more horrors to come: he then went on to tell her that mistakes had been made in the attack on the 13th, and that he had remained near Paris to finish the job. “The exact phrase he told me was that there were failures, and I am here to ensure that there are no more failures.”
At that point Abaaoud left, asking his cousin to supply him with two suits, two pairs of shoes and a hideout, which she did, later visiting Abaaoud at the hideout. Upon her return to Sonia, Boulahcen was crying. “She told me, he will die,” Sonia said. It emerged that Abaaoud was planning further attacks, this time on a shopping centre, a police station and a children’s nursery in La Défense, a major business district in western Paris.
“She told me it’s Thursday and in my head I say, I know I’ll stop them,” Sonia said. She called 197, the emergency number set up by the authorities in the wake of the attacks to advise them of the location of the hideout.
The following day the French police raided the apartment, killing Abaaoud and an accomplice as well as Boulahcen.
Following the raid Sonia was held in custody for her own protection. Police and prosecutors came to thank her, and asked her what she wanted, but, being tired, she misunderstood and told them she wanted to go home.
“They told me that I will have to change my name, move city, and that I will be supported by specialist officers from witness protection. I didn’t expect that. I didn’t expect to never see my family or friends.
“They told me to change all my habits, to pay attention to everything, not to give my identity to anyone, not to say what had happened, not to tell anyone that I had called 197. I must be silent.”
For several weeks she moved from hotel to hotel, eventually being given an apartment to live in. But she has been unable to apply for a new job as she has not yet been given new identity documents; everything is still in her old name.
“The state must treat me with consideration because without people like me, they’ll never succeed,” she said. “The proof of that is Abaaoud was there and they didn’t know it.”
France’s interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve has denied failing Sonia, saying “we’re doing everything necessary”.