Woman who turned in Paris attack ringleader feels 'abandoned'

Paris (AFP) - The woman who turned in Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected ringleader of the November 13 Paris attacks, said Thursday she felt "abandoned" by the state and lived in fear of reprisals.

The woman -- using the pseudonym Sonia -- also said Abaaoud had claimed he had travelled to Europe with 90 others, including Syrians, Iraqis, French, German and British citizens.

He said they were "spread around everywhere in the Paris region".

Sonia was a friend of Abaaoud's cousin Hasna Aitboulahcen, who helped him hide after he and a group of jihadists killed 130 people in the coordinated bomb and gun attacks on cafes, restaurants, a concert hall and the Stade de France stadium.

Both Aitboulahcen and Abaaoud were killed in a police raid on a Paris flat five days after the attacks.

Prosecutors said police had closed in on Abaaoud after a "witness" came forward with information that was backed up by the investigation.

Sonia said in an interview with RMC radio and BFM television that she had called police when Abaaoud revealed he was planning more attacks, this time on a shopping centre, police station and a creche in La Defense business district of Paris.

"In my head I said they will not do it because I am going to stop them," she said.

Sonia said she was with Aitboulahcen, 26, on November 15 when she received a call from a Belgian number telling her to pick up Abaaoud, who was hiding in bushes near a motorway in Paris.

"He was smiling, he didn't look at all like a terrorist," said Sonia.

Sonia said she asked him: "Did you take part in what happened on November 13?

"He said, just like that: 'The terraces, that was me'," she said, referring to the attacks on people sitting outside pavement-front eateries.

Investigators have said Abaaoud, a Belgian of Moroccan origin, was part of a team of gunmen who drove around the east of Paris spraying cafes and restaurants with bullets.

"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."

- 'Cut off from the world' -

Sonia said she had received little support from the state in changing her identity for security purposes and was afraid for her safety, even though she had police protection.

Since turning in Abaaoud, Sonia has lived in limbo. Although she has been given a false name, she claims she has not been given documentation to support it.

"I have no life, no social life, no job, no friends, no family. I have been cut off from the world," she said.

The BFM journalist who interviewed her said that since Sonia had been interviewed she had received some financial aid, but was still awaiting promised psychological help and assistance in building a new life.

"I feel threatened, abandoned," she said.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve refused to divulge details of the case.

"We are doing what must be done in an extremely complicated context," he told Europe 1 radio.

"The best way to act is to keep silent."

Within hours of the interview being broadcast, prosecutors said RMC and BFM were under investigation for violation of confidentiality and endangerment.

The probe aims to determine the "circumstances in which the information was gathered," said prosecutor Francois Molins, who is overseeing the Paris attacks investigation.