French police launched a massive terror raid on a Saint Denis apartment on Wednesday, in hopes of capturing the mastermind behind last week’s terror attack. As the police raided the apartment, a woman managed to blow herself up. Heavy gunfire was reported for several hours beginning around 4:30 a.m. local time. Another person was killed and police managed to arrest seven during the operation. Five police officers and a passerby were injured during the incident. A police dog named Diesel was also killed.
Following the raid, French officials confirmed that Andelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian jihadist who was an integral part of the string of terror attacks that killed 129 people in Paris was one of the high-value terrorists they were targeting. However, it was not immediately clear whether Abaaoud was among those arrested or was ever in the apartment. Police said they followed a female suspect who was believed to have a connection to the terrorists behind Friday’s attack to the property in Saint-Denis. The subsequent operation involved 110 officers from France’s elite RAID unit.
Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said phone data and eyewitness statements led police to the apartment as part of the manhunt for Abaaoud. Earlier, periodic gunfire and explosions could be heard in the area, which is in a northern part of Paris, about 5 to 6 miles from the city center, and close to the Stade de France stadium, where three suicide bombers blew themselves up Friday.
Authorities have been searching for two more suspects believed to have directly participated in Friday’s series of bombings and shootings. Seven attackers were killed, most in suicide bombings, officials said. French officials told The Associated Press that an analysis of the attacks indicated one additional person directly involved in the onslaught remains unaccounted for.
On Tuesday, two Air France passenger jets leaving from the U.S. for Paris were diverted after bomb threats were phoned in, the airline said. Police in Turkey said they detained eight people Wednesday at an airport in Istanbul with suspected links to the Islamic State. The men may have been preparing to enter Germany illegally, the country’s state-run Andalou news agency reported.
French President Francois Hollande was among those who offered congratulations. Yet he also stressed that his country’s fight against terrorists, specifically those linked to ISIS, is anything but over. In fact, the violent nature of Wednesday’s raid in Saint-Denis is further proof that “we are at war,” Hollande said.
What the terrorists were targeting was what France represents. This is what was attacked on the night of November 13th,” he said. “These barbarians targeted France’s diversity. It was the youth of France who were targeted simply because they represent life.”
Hollande said that Wednesday evening he would present the French parliament with legislation that would extend France’s state of emergency for three additional months — a measure that, among other things, gives authorities greater powers in conducting searches, holding people under house arrest and dissolving certain groups of people. The French President also said he’d appeal to world leaders — including meetings next week with U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who have been at odds on what to do in the ISIS stronghold of Syria — to form a wider coalition to go after the savage Islamist extremist group.