UPDATE: Two terror suspects have been killed and seven more taken into custody after a massive seven-hour police raid conducted in the northern Paris suburb of Saint-Denis to track down Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the alleged mastermind of the Paris attacks which killed 129 people.
The special forces assault, which was carried by 110 agents, took place in an apartment building in Saint-Denis and ended at 11:40 a.m. Paris time. Abaaoud, the Belgian Jihadist who was thought to be in Syria, is believed to be on the run. As the raid ended, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said he had “elements that led them to think that Abaaoud was hiding in an apartment (in Saint-Denis),” BFMTV reported.
Following the raid, France President Francois Hollande spoke at a congress of mayors, claiming “the anti-terrorist raid in Saint-Denis confirms that we are at war.” Hollande, who has extended the State of Emergency measure until February, also said “The barbarians have targeted France in its diversity. It’s the youth of France which was targeted because it simply embodies life… Our social cohesion is the best answer and our national union is an expression of it. We must be ferocious against all forms of hatred. No xenophobic, anti-semitic, anti-Muslim act must be tolerated,” Holland said.
Police have been hunting for Abaaoud for months — he was sentenced in July to 20 years in prison in Brussels for recruiting Jihadists in Belgium (including his own 14-year old brother) to go to Syria; he’s also the alleged supervisor of the attempted attack against Belgian police stations in Verviers in January and is believed to be behind the aborted terror assault in the Thalys and Villejuif church earlier this year, according to Le Figaro.
A woman detonated her suicide vest in the Saint-Denis building, the French police said. Five special forces agents have been injured, according to BFMTV.
The raid follows reports of sustained heavy gunfire and a series of explosions from 4:25 a.m. Paris time as officials hunted for terror suspects who were believed to be barricaded in an apartment building along with Abaaoud.
Saint-Denis is located near the Stade de France soccer stadium where three suicide bombers killed themselves and another pedestrian.
Officials in France said Wednesday early morning they were searching for at least two people tied to Friday’s attacks. The prime suspect in the Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, is still being hunted down by police. Both Abdeslam and Abaaoud are from Molenbeek in Belgium.
Earlier in the night, Reuters reported that two flights from the U.S. to Paris were diverted following anonymous bomb threats.
French authorities are currently searching Roissy and The Bourget airports under the State of Emergency measures.