Europe’s first woman with her friends and neighbours, she was bubbly and outgoing, if a bit “clueless”.
But yesterday morning Hasna Aitboulahcen earned the dubious distinction of becoming Europe’s first woman suicide bomber.
More has now begun to emerge about the 26-year-old who blew herself up as police stormed the flat where she was holed up with two fellow Islamic State terrorists.
One of the two men killed in the blockade was thought to be her cousin Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the mastermind of last Friday’s Paris attacks which left 129 dead.
Hasna had appeared at a window to the flat shortly after 6am as police special forces accompanied by soldiers moved in.
Stephane Colas, 41, who lives near the Rue de la Republique, said: “I was woken about 5am by a police helicopter going round and round. I went outside to see what was happening and the police were going house to house. They were saying ‘evacuate, evacuate’.”
Hasna appeared at a window, shouting “help me, help me”, perhaps to lure the police in. Hasna was told that if she did not stay where she was, she would be shot, but went back inside.
Around 6am, the police beginning a fresh assault. Their targets were ready for them, wearing their suicide vests. Hasna was the first to open fire during the fresh exchange, using a Kalashnikov assault rifle.
The police tried to talk to Hasna, asking her: “Where’s your boyfriend?”
“He’s not my boyfriend!” she shouted in reply.
Seconds later, she explosion a suicide vest, killing herself and causing the floor of the apartment to collapse. The explosion was so violent that her spine was later found lying in the street outside.
In some pictures that were circulating today, Hasna is seen making V signs to the camera and she appears like any playful young woman.
Indeed, people who knew her described her as an “extrovert” who drank alcohol and was nicknamed “the cowgirl” for her habit of wearing cowboy hats.
A former cognizant in the town of Creutzwald in northeastern France, where she frequently visited her father, told the Républic Lorrain newspaper: “She was an extrovert, a bit lost. She didn’t really look like a suicide bomber and she drank alcohol.”
However, neighbours said Hasna had not been living the town in the past five years.
Since she was last seen in Creutz wald she had clearly been radicalised, judging by her Facebook page, which the Belgian news website DH.be has seen.
In it, Hasna can be seen wearing a niqab and brandishing firearms. She also wrote messages praising Hayat Boumed dienne the wife of Amedy Coulibaly, the Jewish supermarket killer in Paris last January who fled to Syria.
Like Boumeddienne, Hasna tried to travel to Syria, but never managed to. She is said to have written on her Facebook page in pidgin French: “I’ll soon by on my way to Syria God willing. Soon leaving for Turkey.”
Having failed to join the IS overseas she subsequently “offered her services to commit terrorist attacks in France”, according to French police sources.
She was placed under “triple surveillance” by French intelligence, judges and the police for drug running and terror activities.
Hasna’s family is understood to have arrived in France in 1973 and settled in the Paris region, where she was born in 1989, in the suburb of Clichy-la-Garenne.
At one stage, she was the director of a building firm called Beko Construction, set up in 2011 at Épinay-sur-Seine. The firm, which the police are understood to be investigating for possible links to money-laundering and terror funding, went into liquidation last year.
The flat where Hasna died with her two fellow terrorists is close to the Stade de France, where three terrorists blew themselves up last Friday during a failed attempt to kill thousands of football fans attending the France-Germany friendly.
Moroccan intellect played a part in pointing the finger at Hasna, leading to the flat where she was staying.
Her father, 75, left Creutz wald and moved back to Morocco six months ago, according to the town’s mayor.