France hunts at­tack­ers in pre-dawn Paris raid

Woman blows her­self up, cops shoot dead an­other sus­pect

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - FRONT PAGE - Pra­sun Son­walkar pra­sun.son­walkar@hin­dus­tan­times.com

PARIS: A tense, seven-hour raid in the Saint-De­nis sub­urb against the sus­pected mas­ter­mind of last week’s car­nage in Paris ended on Wed­nes­day with two sus­pects dead and seven ar­rested as Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande in­sisted France will not suc­cumb to fear.

Res­i­dents of the Saint-De­nis sub­urb woke to ex­plo­sions and gun­fire as heav­ily armed French po­lice backed by sol­diers stormed an apart­ment shortly af­ter 4am. A woman blew her­self up and a man was killed by se­cu­rity forces, Paris pros­e­cu­tor Fran­cois Molins said.

The raid led the forces to a sec­ond apart­ment and seven sus­pects were ar­rested from the two lo­ca­tions. The tar­get of the raid was Ab­del­hamid Abaaoud, the sus­pected ring­leader of Fri­day’s brazen at­tacks that killed more than 130, but Molins did not say whether he was among the de­tained or dead.

Else­where in Paris, there was po­lice pres­ence in pub­lic places but life was as nor­mal as could be un­der the cir­cum­stances.

Of­fi­cials said the dead woman — said to be a rel­a­tive of Abaaoud, a 27-year-old Bel­gian of Moroc­can ori­gin — det­o­nated her ex­plo­sive vest soon af­ter the raid be­gan. The other sus­pect was killed by grenades and po­lice bul­lets. A po­lice of­fi­cial said four of­fi­cers were in­jured and a po­lice dog died.

Ad­dress­ing an as­sem­bly of may­ors, Hol­lande said the Saint-De­nis raid was “to neu­tralise ter­ror­ists who had links to the per­pe­tra­tors of Fri­day’s hideous crimes”. He said po­lice en­dured “ter­ri­fy­ing con­di­tions” to carry out the raid.

Re­peat­ing his ear­lier mes­sage that France is at war against Is­lamic State mil­i­tants, Hol­lande said the group is “threat­en­ing the whole world” and the en­tire power of the gov­ern­ment will be put to­wards pro­tect­ing the French peo­ple against ter­ror­ists.

“We need a ro­bust le­gal frame­work to con­front the cir­cum­stances... I have de­cided that we should re-es­tab­lish con­trol of our fron­tiers. The con­cept of the ter­ror­ists is to plunge our coun­try into di­vi­sion,” he said. France’s pri­or­ity now is “erad­i­cat­ing rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion”, he added.

“France will re­main a coun­try of lib­erty and cul­ture... France will never give in to fear,” Hol­lande said. He added he wanted a “large coali­tion” work­ing to­gether against IS mil­i­tants to de­stroy a group that “com­mits mas­sacres” in the Mid­dle East.

Pros­e­cu­tor Molins said the raid was launched af­ter in­for­ma­tion from tapped tele­phone con­ver­sa­tions, sur­veil­lance and wit­ness ac­counts in­di­cated Abaaoud might be in a safe house in the area. Abaaoud was be­lieved to be in 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.

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