Friday’s post described the morning-long shoot-out in Saint-Denis, home to the basilica where French kings are buried and to the Stade de France.

This second post concludes the story. Translations and emphases mine below.

Public reaction

The Nouvel Observateur, l’Obs, interviewed several Saint-Denis residentsdionysiens, as they are called.

Mohammed, in his 50s and originally from Algeria, lives near the scene of the attacks. He said the gunfire alarmed him, his wife and their baby:

This country doesn’t deserve this. What’s more, I have to go to work later this morning and can’t get there because there’s no transport. Normally, here, we lead quiet lives in a nation of liberty. We seek peace. Vive la France et vive la République!

One father decided not to explain to his children what was happening. Presumably, they lived further away from the shootings; he told his children that school was cancelled that day because their teacher was ill.

Pierre, 88, has lived in Saint-Denis for 20 years. When asked why this had happened, he said:

If I answer too honestly, I’ll be charged with racism.

A group of young Muslims told l’Obs:

We’re very mixed here: there are all nationalities, all races. Now, unfortunately, these people have committed these seriously extreme acts and we’re all in the same basket.

The Socialist MP for Seine-Saint-Denis, the parliamentary constituency, said he never saw this coming.

The Communist mayor of Saint-Denis said:

We cannot speak of extremism here. There are 130 nationalities living side-by-side here: all religious affiliations accustomed to dialogue and building [a community] together. Of course, all the evil in the world can pass through here … But that’s not who we are. That’s not our daily existence.

These are incredible political reactions here, typically leftist denial.

Whereas, a local businessman, an immigrant who lives in the area of the shoot-out said:

I’m not at all surprised. These people blend in with the rest of the crowd.

Another man, Tarek, 33, told the reporter:

When I found out what was happening, I said, ‘Oh, no, not us again!’It makes me afraid. I’m scrutinising everyone I pass in the street. I’m not at all relaxed. This is like a film. But even a film doesn’t go this far. Reality has surpassed fiction.

The Daily Mail has photos of what the interior of the block of flats looked like after the shoot-out ended. As I mentioned on Friday, the building needed immediate remedial work before it was safe for forensic experts to search for evidence. Other residents of the building were evacuated before the siege took place. Some were taken in for questioning.

Jawad Bendaoud, notional proprietor

On the morning of the attacks, Wednesday, November 18, I watched France’s BFMTV.

Reporters interviewed two people in their 20s, a man and a woman, both of whom reminded me of my ex-colleagues. They were well presented and articulate. The man, Jawad Bendaoud, 27, appears to be the owner of the block of flats involved in the siege. The young woman had stayed in one of the flats, which she said was considered something of a ‘squat’ but, she said, was a studio flat with a kitchen.

Police took both in for questioning. The woman was later released however, as of Saturday, Jawad Bendaoud was still in custody.

When BFMTV interviewed him, prior to the police doing so, he said he was just ‘rendering a service’ and it wasn’t any of his business to ask questions when a friend asked if he could put a couple of people from Belgium up for a few days. He said all they wanted was a place with water where they could pray.

L’Obs asked people in Rue du Corbillon, the scene of the shoot-out, about him. Everyone seems to know who he is.

Momo, a friend, alleged:

His life is all about sex and hash[ish].

Djibril, in his 40s, is temporarily living in another block of squats nearby. He has seen Bendaoud’s flats, rented for €550 a month:

I found them disconcerting. The door didn’t even close.

He added:

He’s the boss of the street.

Bendaoud was born and raised in Saint-Denis. His mother still lives there. He hasn’t been there much in recent years and only returned several weeks ago, after a short spell in prison. He began his first term in 2008. He served several years for murdering a man with a knife.

Djibril’s friend Moussa said that it’s impossible to open a small shopfront business without attracting Bendaoud’s attention and demands for protection money paid in cash weekly. The two of them had wanted to open their own shop but abandoned the idea.

They also said he has a

huge address book with lots of Arab contacts.

It will be very interesting to find out who and what he knows — and whether he will talk to police.

Hasna Aitboulahcen

Although this woman, a cousin of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, also killed in the shoot-out, was said to be France’s first female suicide bomber, later reports said that the suicide bomber’s remains unidentified. That person might have been male.

Whatever the case, Aitboulahcen was supposedly related to Abaaoud on her mother’s side of the family. She was born in 1989 in Clichy-la-Garenne, just outside of Paris. She also owned a small business, Beko Construction, based in the Parisian suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois. The company has since been liquidated by court order.

BFMTV interviewed several people who knew her. They are of either French or North African heritage. They were all amazed that she was a terrorist. They knew her as a partier, someone who drank and smoked. She was fully Westernised and went out a lot at night. As far as they knew, she was not a religious person.

20minutes, now a fully digital news site, delved more into her childhood and has a revealing report. Her profile appears to be similar to those of other IS terrorists in terms of household instability.

The article says that she was abused as a child and was put in a foster home at the age of 8. A man claiming to be her brother spoke to Agence France Presse (AFP) and said she was happy with her foster family. According to him, she was a girl like any other.

However, her foster mother said that it was strange that Hasna never showed her any affection. She thinks something might have happened in Hasna’s adolescence during the monthly visits to her family. The foster mother was alarmed to find Hasna watching coverage of 9/11 where

she sat in front of the television applauding.

The lady says that, afterwards, Hasna began doing what she wanted. She became aggressive and sometimes shouted. She also began sleeping with her head completely covered because, in her words:

the devil is around at night.

One day, at the age of 15, Hasna suddenly left her foster home. She did not return. The family has had no contact with her since 2008.

Her brother said that, afterwards, Hasna was known for running away and keeping bad company.

Hasna’s mother is shocked that her daughter ended up as a terrorist. However, a childhood friend said that Hasna’s teen years probably influenced her to become one. One is led to believe this could quite possibly have occurred through the acquaintances she built up over time.

Hasna’s mother’s flat in Aulnay-sous-Bois, a Paris suburb, has now been searched. Hasna had been living there for most of the past six months, until she moved out three weeks ago to live with a female friend in Drancy, another suburb.

People from Aulnay remember Hasna as a girl who enjoyed wearing jeans, cowboy hats and boots. One said she was a bit of a tomboy.

Neighbours from Aulnay — and her brother — were shocked to see her one day in full Muslim fundamentalist attire.

Hasna also used to visit her father in the northeastern city of Creutzwald (Moselle), near the German border. Aged 74 and a strict Muslim, he now lives in Morocco.

Hasna’s father moved to Moselle for work reasons.

Neighbours in Creutzwald remember his daughter as a partier. Police have also searched his former home.

On June 11, 2015, Hasna posted a message on her Facebook page saying that she hoped to go soon to Syria via Turkey to help the IS cause.

According to a Belgian newspaper La Dernière Heure, she also deeply admired Hyper Casher attacker Amedy Coulibaly’s widow Hayat Boumedienne.

Although Hasna never went to Syria, she offered to further terror from France.

That she did in Saint-Denis last Wednesday — with or without a suicide vest.

Tomorrow: Molenbeek

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