Several days after the Paris terror attacks that left 130 dead, French police raided an apartment complex in the suburb of Saint-Denis, killing the mastermind of the attacks and taking several suspected terrorists hostage.
But there was another casualty from that day that received much of the media attention: Hasna Ait Boulahcen, 26, the female suicide bomber who reportedly blew herself up during the raid. (French police later confirmed that another man in the apartment was in fact the suicide bomber, and Boulahcen died as a result of him detonating his bomb.)
Over the next few days, details of Boulahcen's life began to emerge. The young woman was allegedly hard partier and clubgoer — "a party animal with a string of boyfriends who had shown no interest in religion," as the Daily Mailput it — who only took up an interest in radical Islam a month before her death, sparking a tabloid fascination with her story. The Mail, The New York Post, and several other outlets published articles about her, with the Post deeming her the “skanky suicide bomber” and running a cover story of Boulahcen in a bathtub with the cover line “Rub a dub dub, Thug in a Tub.”
Problem is, that’s not Boulahchen in any of the photos — it’s Nabila Bakkatha, a Moroccan woman who has no connection to ISIS.
"The photograph was taken by my friend, who sold it to a French journalist after the Paris attacks in revenge,” Bakkatha said to CNN. "Three days ago, another friend called me saying that my photographs are...on the front pages of a number of international newspapers.” “Family I haven’t seen for a while thought I was the one who died,” she added to AJ+.
This innocent Moroccan woman was falsely portrayed as a suicide bomber by media outlets, including AJ+. https://t.co/FNBluP6LN9
— AJ+ (@ajplus) November 23, 2015
Bakkatha lived in France from 1988 to 2007. During that time, she befriended a woman who she later had a falling out with. When the Paris raid occurred, her ex-friend noticed a very slight resemblance between Bakkatha and Boulahchen and sold photos of Bakkatha to news outlets out of spite. The reporters didn’t do their research, and ran the photos as it, destroying Bakkatha’s reputation in the process.
"My life changed drastically," she told CNN. "I stopped going to work, and I cannot go out anymore as I live in continuous fear."