2 dead, 7 arrested in raid targeting Paris attack mastermind

November 18, 2015 | By | Reply More

Nov 18, – There was no clear information on the fate of the suspected planner of the attacks, 27-year-old Abdelhamid Abaaoud.

Gunfire and explosions shocked already-jittery residents of a Paris suburb awake Wednesday as police raided an apartment where they believed the suspected mastermind of last week’s attacks was holed up. Two people were killed in the seven-hour siege, including a woman who blew herself up, and seven others were arrested.

France Paris AttacksParis prosecutor Francois Molins said the dead were a woman who blew herself up with an explosive vest and a man hit by projectiles and grenades. He said the raid was launched after information from tapped telephone conversations, surveillance and witness accounts indicated that Abaaoud might be in a safe house in the north Paris suburb of Saint-Denis.

Authorities could not immediately confirm whether Abaaoud was killed or arrested Wednesday morning.

Investigators have identified Abaaoud, a Belgian of Moroccan descent, as the chief architect of Friday’s attacks in Paris, which killed 129 people and wounded 350 others.

A U.S. official briefed on intelligence matters said Abaaoud was a key figure in an Islamic State external operations cell that U.S. intelligence agencies have been tracking for months.

Abaaoud was believed to have escaped to Syria after a January police raid in Belgium, but bragged in Islamic State propaganda of his ability to move back and forth between Europe and Syria undetected.

The site of Wednesday’s raid is just over a mile (less than two kilometers) from the Stade de France soccer stadium; three suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the stadium during an international soccer match Friday.

They were one of three teams of attackers who also targeted a rock concert at the Bataclan theater as well popular night spots in a trendy Paris neighborhood. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the carnage, which has left France in mourning and on edge.

On Wednesday, residents of Paris’ Saint-Denis neighborhood were shocked awake by an explosion at around 4:20 a.m.

Amine Guizani said the blast was followed by the sound of grenades and automatic gunfire.

“It was continuous. It didn’t stop,” he said. “It lasted from 4:20 until 5:30. It was a good hour. I couldn’t say how many shots were fired, but it was probably 500. Hundreds, definitely. There were maybe 10 explosions.”

Police cordoned off an area around the building in a narrow street lined with low-rise buildings. Riot police cleared people from the streets, pointing guns at residents to move them off the roads.

“We tried to stop our children hearing the noise,” said Farah Appane, who lives about 80 yards (meters) from where the raid took place. “My 19-month-old was crying. Our 8-year-old said ‘What is it? Are there more attacks?'”

She said she could hear gunfire on and off for over an hour, followed by “one really huge boom.”

“It was when the woman exploded herself. It made our apartment shake it was so strong,” Appane said.

Molins said the operation began with a pre-dawn shootout and resulted in the capture of three people inside the apartment. Two others were detained while trying to hide in the rubble. The man who lived in the apartment and one of his acquaintances also were arrested.

Four police officers were slightly injured and a SWAT team police dog was killed in the operation. The National Police said in tweet that the 7-year-old Belgian Malinois named Diesel was “killed by terrorists.”

Molins said the identities of those killed and arrested were still being verified, and “based on the work of forensic police, we’ll tell you who was in the apartment — and what consequences it will have for the development of the investigation,” he said.

Neither Molins nor French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve would say whether some attackers might still be on the loose.

Police had said before the raids that they were hunting for two fugitives suspected of taking part, as well as any accomplices.

Press journalist for HRO media – Ignacio Damigo reports.

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Category: International

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