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2 dead in French siege targeting Paris attack ringleader

A woman blew herself up with a suicide belt when confronted by authorities.

Feb 29, 2020, 3:57 pm*

Tech

 

Dell Cameron

Two people are dead, including the suspected “mastermind” of Friday night’s attacks in Paris, after a woman detonated explosives strapped to her body during an early morning anti-terror raid in a suburb of Paris.

Seven suspects, all of whom French authorities believe are tied to Friday’s terrorist attacks, were arrested during a seven-hour siege involving French police and military forces at an apartment building on the rue du Corbillon in Saint-Denis. A woman killed herself by detonating a suicide belt. A male suspect was killed by a grenade, officials said. 

Police captured three people inside of the building, and two others were discovered hiding in the rubble; the apartment’s landlord was also arrested, along with a second woman, at a location nearby.

The goal of the early morning action was to capture Abdelhamid Abaaoud, French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve confirmed at a briefing on Wednesday afternoon. Abaaoud, who is in his late twenties, is believed to be a crucial link between senior leaders of the Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for Friday’s attacks, and terrorist cells in Europe. Abaaoud has been credited by French officials as the ringleader of the Paris attacks.

Later on Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that unnamed senior French officials said that Abaaoud was killed during the raid.

Paris prosecutor François Molins did not confirm that Abaaoud was killed during a Wednesday press conference, however, and he said he is not in a position to say how many died in the raid or to identify all of them. Molins said that Abaaoud was not among those arrested.

Belgian TV station BFMTV, citing a police source, reported that the female suicide bomber was Abdeslam’s cousin, who had been under police surveillance for several days.

At least seven explosions were heard by Saint-Denis residents during the standoff, in which a 7-year-old police dog named Diesel was also killed.

“I would like to pay tribute to all those involved in the operation,” Cazeneuve said from Saint-Denis, “110 in total, who acted with bravery and under heavy fire, in conditions that they had never experienced before. I would also like to pay tribute to the cool-headedness of St Denis residents.”

Saint-Denis is the location of the Stade de France stadium, located less than six miles north of Paris, where 79,000 football fans gathered on Friday when three terrorists blew themselves up outside the sports venue, killing a bystander and injuring dozens.

A little over 100,000 people live in Saint-Denis, the spot of an uncommon 12th century cathedral, Basilique Saint-Denis, a royal necropolis that was home to all but three kings of France.

The serial bombings of Nov. 13, are the deadliest to strike France in more than 70 years. All 129 victims—a diverse, young crowd of 19 nationalities—have been identified as of Wednesday, the French cabinet said. A total of 221 people remain hospitalized, dozens in critical condition.

Meanwhile, security forces continue a multinational manhunt for Salah Abdeslam, allegedly the eighth Paris gunman. Seven others died in the attacks, including Abdeslam’s brother, Ibraham, the Comptoir Voltaire café bomber. A third sibling, whom police say had no foreknowledge of the attacks, asked his younger brother to turn himself in to police during a press interview on Tuesday.

“I would tell him to surrender. That’s the best solution,” Mohamed Abdeslam told CNN. “But of course, if he has something to do with it, he must accept responsibility.”

Two men, identified as Hamza Attou and Mohammed Amri, were arrested in Belgium on Tuesday and charged with participating in a terrorist attack for allegedly driving the younger Abdeslam to Belgium after Friday night’s attacks.

This story is developing and will be updated as new details are made public. 

Update 11:53am CT, Nov. 18: Added details about police efforts to determine whether Abaaoud died during the raid.

Update 12:23pm CT, Nov. 18: Despite sources saying that that Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected mastermind of Friday’s attacks, was killed in Wednesday morning’s raid, Paris’s prosecutor did not confirm that.

Photo by billknock/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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*First Published: Nov 18, 2015, 11:49 am