BRUSSELS: Even Abdelhamid Abaaoud's own family prayed for his death, and today they got their wish when the Belgian jihadist behind the Paris attacks was confirmed killed in a French police raid.
Abaaoud was a one-time school bully and petty criminal from the Brussels immigrant district of Molenbeek who graduated to become a leading Islamic State militant with ties to a series of plots in Europe.
The 28-year-old of Moroccan origin had recently boasted of evading police dragnets in Europe, and taunted European authorities from what was assumed to be an IS base in Syria.
The effect on his family was profound, with his sister Yasmina telling Flemish newspapers last year that "we can only pray that he is really dead" after it was - mistakenly - reported that he was killed in Syria.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls hailed the death of the "mastermind" of last week's atrocities, after prosecutors said Abaaoud body had been identified following yesterday's raid in Saint Denis.
His female cousin was reported to have blown herself up.
In the past, Abbaoud liked to taunt the police, boasting of a close call he had when he passed through a European checkpoint as police studied a photo of him.
Other pictures show him cracking a wide smile, wearing a turban-style scarf, woollen hat or military cap, as he poses with guns or alongside a comrade.
He also bragged about escaping from Europe after Belgian police shot dead two of his fellow militants in the eastern town of Verviers as they broke up a cell planning attacks on security personnel earlier this year.
"My name and picture were all over the news yet I was able to stay in their homeland, plan operations against them, and leave safely when doing so became necessary," he said.
His dead colleagues, he added, were "blessed with shahadah (martyrdom), which is what they had desired for so long."
It was not yet clear when Abaaoud had returned to Europe from Syria to coordinate the Paris attacks.
Abaaoud had first popped up on the radar of Belgian security forces after featuring in an Islamic State video, laughing as he drove a car which dragged mutilated bodies behind it.
But it was after the Verviers raid, shortly after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January in Paris, that Abaaoud's name began to widely circulate.
In February, Abaaoud, who was reported at one time to be in Greece, claimed responsibility for the plot against police officers and said he had joined IS in Syria.
Abaaoud - who hails from Molenbeek, a grimy Brussels district dubbed an extremist "hotbed" - was then sentenced in absentia to 20 years in prison in July for running a network to recruit jihadists to Syria.