France hunts attackers in pre-dawn Paris raid
Woman blows herself up, cops shoot dead another suspect
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.