RT – The French police and army swooped on a Paris suburb early Wednesday amid heavy gunfire and explosions in the hunt for those behind last Friday’s attacks. A female suicide bomber blew herself up, and five people were arrested during the raid.
Residents of the suburb of Saint-Denis, north of Paris, were awakened by an exchange of gunfire at around 4:30 a.m. (0330 GMT) local time.
“I was awakened by explosions that lasted about 15-20 minutes,” one resident told Le Monde. “From our window, we could see lights [that looked] like gunfire… Then helicopters landed on the roofs.”
At least 15 people, including women and children, have been evacuated from the building in the area of anti-terrorist operation, the mayor office of Saint-Denis told Le Figaro.
According to police spokesman Jean-Alphonse Richard, officers identified an apartment being used as a base by the alleged terrorists in Saint-Denis in the hunt for a key suspect in last Friday’s murderous Paris attacks and his accomplices.
The primary target of the raid was Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the alleged sponsor and mastermind of Friday’s massacre in Paris, police said. Salah Abdeslam, another suspect in the attacks, was also reportedly targeted in the raid.
“There were grenades. It was going, stopping. Kalashnikovs. Starting again,’‘ Saint-Denis resident Amin Guizani told AP.
The terror suspects reportedly barricaded themselves in an apartment.
Later at least 50 soldiers were deployed at the scene of the police operation in Saint-Denis, according to RTL.
“There are men from RAID [Research, Assistance, Intervention, Deterrence unit] shooting from the rooftops,” Djihane, a neighbor, told France Inter radio, referring to France’s equivalent of SWAT squads. “We’ve been told to lie on the floor and not go to the windows.”
At least five officers were injured during the anti-terrorist operation, the French National Police said on Twitter.
One of the suspects managed to escape, however, Richard said.
There have been conflicting reports about the number of terror suspects killed in the operation. France’s chief prosecutor has so far confirmed the death of one female suicide bomber. Earlier, police said that a second extremist was killed during the raid.
TV channel iTele reported that three terrorists were killed, citing a police source.
Five people have been arrested by police, the chief prosecutor said, adding that three men were arrested in the apartment and that a man and a woman who were nearby have also been detained.
The prosecutor added that police arrested close associates of Omar Ismail Mostefai and Sami Amimour, two suicide bombers in the Paris attacks.
Schools and colleges in the center of Saint-Denis will stay closed for the day, an official from the prefecture of Seine-Saint-Denis said.
Reports have emerged about multiple shots and explosions at the scene of the operation later on Wednesday.
The northern Paris suburb of Saint Denis, home of the Stade de France national stadium, has been under intense scrutiny since terrorists targeted the venue Friday.
French authorities have launched dozens of anti-terrorist raids across the country following the coordinated Paris terror attacks on Friday that killed at least 132 people and wounded hundreds more. The raids have resulted in dozens of arrests and the seizure of weapons caches.
Belgium also carried out an anti-terrorist operation Monday in the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek, which has been dubbed a European jihadist hotspot. Both Salah Abdeslam and Abdelhamid Abaaoud, key suspects in the Paris attacks, were based in the area.