The French police were involved in a shootout early Wednesday as part of an on-going police raid in St-Denis that is expected to capture the alleged Paris attack mastermind, as well as a “ninth attacker”.
Suspected mastermind Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who was previously believed to be staying in Syria, but is now based in France, is the main target of the operation.
In addition, the authorities are also looking for Salah Abdeslam, who has been the subject of a “major manhunt” since Saturday, and reported “ninth attacker,” who has been sought by the police since Tuesday night.
The town of St-Denis, which lies near the northern border of Paris, was the venue of the police operation on Wednesday.
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According to a BFMTV reporter, gunfire was first heard since at about 4:30 local time, and continued for more than two hours. The encounter between the police and the suspected terrorists took place in an apartment near Gabriel Péri. A woman inside the apartment reportedly detonated a suicide bomb amidst the gunfire, wounding officers. A “series of explosions” were also heard during the operation. “From our window, we could see lights, like fire or grenades… Then the helicopters arrived,” said a mother who was in the vicinity.
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Civilians and residents have been advised to stay away from the area or avoid leaving their homes. Public transport and the metro have been shut down in the area for safety.
However, there were no available updates on whether the “massive” operation was successful or not. There were no details whether the targets were injured, captured, or negotiations are undergoing.
The area where the operation is taking place is just over two kilometers from Stade de France, one of the major targets of a suicide bombing on Friday’s multiple terrorist attacks.
The suicide bomber was not allowed to enter the stadium, and was forced to detonate the bomb outside. There had been a friendly football match between France and Germany at the time.
A source reported that the operation includes a “special armed response unit” due to the fact that Europe is on high alert following the attacks on Friday that claimed 129 lives and injured hundreds more.
French President François Hollande is set to hold a meeting on Wednesday to extend the country’s state of emergency to three months. Lawmakers would then vote for or against it on Thursday and Friday.
Hollande has reportedly agreed with Russian President Vladimir Putin to coordinate regarding the two country’s attacks on the terrorist group.
The two “agreed to assure closer contact and coordination between the military and security service agencies of the two countries in actions against terrorist groups… in Syria”, said the Kremlin.
ISIS recently claimed responsibility for bombing a Russian jet last month that claimed the lives of more than 200 passengers.
ISIS Celebrates Russian Jet Bombing Prior To Paris Attack
Friday’s terrorist attacks have caused panic across the European nation and other neighboring countries. A scheduled football match in Germany was canceled due to the attacks, while two Air France flights from the United States were diverted.
Investigators said that the terrorist attack was planned in Syria, and was “nurtured” in Belgium, where a few of the suspects, including the Paris attack mastermind, stayed. One of those is Abdeslam, together with two other suspects, who were stopped by the French police as they were driving to the Belgian border.
Unfortunately, they hadn’t been on any of the suspect lists at the time, and so the officers let them go. His two comrades have since been captured, and only Abdeslam, of the three suspects in the car, remains at large.
Meanwhile, France has already taken steps in retaliating against Islamic State, dropping 16 bombs on alleged strongholds and recruitment camps of the terrorist group.