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St. Denis Residents Worry More Attacks Are Inevitable After Paris

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Authorities today confirmed that the man they believe planned last Friday's attacks is dead. Abdelhakid Abouad died in yesterday's police raid in the city of Saint-Denis according to a statement from the Paris prosecutor. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley was back in Saint-Denis today, and she found people there worried about the prospect of another attack.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Residents of Saint-Denis were still a bit shaky as they returned to their daily routine after yesterday's lockdown and violent confrontation between the police and gunmen who were holed up in two apartments in the center of the city. Stores reopened today, and the buses were running normally.

(LAUGHTER)

BEARDSLEY: But news that one of the leaders of Friday's attacks was dead did not provide much relief for this group of office workers heading for lunch.

CHRISTOPHE CABARET: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: "It's going to happen again here and in other European countries and the U.S.," says Christophe Cabaret. "Anyone who attacks ISIS will be a target. Look at what happened to Russia," he says. "That's why we're fatalists, but we're not going to succumb to fear."

(CROSSTALK)

BEARDSLEY: Friday's attackers were young French and Belgian nationals of North African descent like many people here in Saint-Denis. This city has a higher rate of unemployment than the French capital and is known for petty crime and drugs. Ten years ago, disgruntled young men rioted here and in other suburbs across France. Today, people worry that the young and disaffected are radicalizing and going to Syria. There are more French citizens in Syria than any other European country, and the French government is struggling to stop them from going.

BEATRICE BRUGERE: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: Beatrice Brugere is a former antiterrorist judge. She says there's no typical profile of a jihadist anymore, and many come from non-Muslim backgrounds. The only common thread, she says, is youth.

BRUGERE: (Through interpreter) We're failing to identify and stop them 'cause we're using classic theories and methods that don't correspond to reality anymore. The terrorists are using new technologies to radicalize young people. They're moving faster than us and in sync with modernity. They're using social networks and indoctrination by video.

BEARDSLEY: Brugere says ISIS penetrates the structures of modern Western society - its clubs, mosques and social media - to find vulnerable young people to indoctrinate.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MANUEL VALLS: Speaking French.

BEARDSLEY: Prime Minister Manuel Valls spoke to the French Parliament today before it voted to extend the national state of emergency for three months. Valls announced the government would build a de-radicalization center in France before the end of the year. It will house young people returning from Syria, keeping them out of jail where others have become radicalized in the past.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ABDELHAMID ABAAOUD: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: A video of Belgian national Abdelhamid Abaaoud has been playing on French television all day. Smiling behind the wheel of a pickup truck, Abouad talks in French about jet skis and motocross and the fun of driving big trucks. The truck he's driving is pulling the bodies of Syrian civilians and rebels just killed by ISIS. Some Muslims in Saint-Denis say they're afraid these sorts of images could provoke some kind of backlash against them. But others, such as Mustapha Benhada, say they're worried for everyone in France. He came here as a 4-year-old from Algeria in the 1960s. He works as a nurse and says Saint-Denis is cosmopolitan and a great place to raise his four children. And he wants it to stay that way.

MUSTAPHA BENHADA: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: "I'm not scared," he says, "but I am worried because the things happening are so shocking, and we don't know what's next. This will add a new layer of worry to society in France." Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Saint-Denis. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.