The French "party girl" who was killed in a shootout at a terrorists' safe house in Paris dreamed of joining the army or the police to protect her country, childhood friends told The Daily Telegraph yesterday (Friday).
Hasna Aitboulahcen, the cousin of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected ringleader of the Nov 13 attacks in which 130 people died, wanted to become a soldier and serve France. But she could not join up and she became homeless, her neighbour said.
Karim, who lives on a housing estate notorious for drugs and violence in the suburb of Aulnay-sous-Bois, said: "For a while, she wanted to become a soldier and serve France. But she couldn't join up and she became homeless. Then she fell in with a new crowd and her new cause became Syria." After the 26-year-old's parents split up, she was placed with a foster family from the age of eight to 15.
Her foster mother said Aitboulahcen had "applauded in front of the TV" as she watched coverage of the September 11 attacks. "At the beginning she was a kid like the others," she said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
But her behaviour quickly deteriorated. "I think the problems came from her home, from her monthly visits to her parents," said the foster mother, who cried when she saw television pictures of the woman she helped raise.
Aitboulahcen was initially identified as a suicide bomber. But police have now established that it was a man who blew himself up during the police siege of a terrorists' safe house in Saint-Denis on Wednesday. His identity has not been confirmed.
Aitboulahcen's foster mother said "she did what she pleased" as a child, often shouted or refused to talk. "She used to roll herself up in a quilt, hiding her head. She said the devil was there at night."
After separating from Aitboulahcen's mother, her father left Paris and moved to Creutzwald, eastern France, to work at a Peugeot factory. She regularly visited him in the town, where neighbours said she had also talked of becoming a gendarme in France's police force.
Yousef Abou, 35, said she told him she failed the admission test but a gendarmerie spokesman said there was no record of her having tried to join.
Karim, who declined to give his surname, said she was a drug user and a heavy drinker who started wearing a veil six months ago, "but often had a bottle of vodka in her hand".
He said she was "dependent on cocaine" until the end. Judicial sources said she had been "in trouble with the police" over drugs.
Her brother, Youssouf, said she had "missed out on affection" and "lacked guidance". He said she became "reckless, often ran away, and got in with the wrong crowd."
Meanwhile, the leader of the police squad that ended the Nov 13 massacre by storming the Bataclan concert hall said it was "hell on earth", with bodies lying in pools of blood on the floor.
He said his men were forced to ignore the pleas of the wounded and dying as they combed the premises for the gunmen. The commander of the elite BRI unit, using the pseudonym Jeremy, said: "A lot of people asked us to help them because they were wounded, bleeding and we had to say no, first we have to find the terrorists. It [was] difficult for the guys."
When they first entered, there was "no sound". He said: "Nobody was screaming. Nobody was moving because they were afraid of the terrorists." He added: "As soon as we opened the door, one of the terrorists shot between 25 to 30 rounds of AK47 bullets at us." He said the memories make it difficult for him to sleep at night.