Heavy gunfire erupted in Saint Denis, a suburb in northern Paris, early on Wednesday morning when security forces launched an operation to catch a suspect linked to Friday’s terror attacks that killed close to 130 people. The firing ended after 6 hours.
In the exchange of fire, two suspected jihadists have been killed, and this includes a female suicide bomber who blew up herself. Forces believed that the mastermind of the deadly attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, was also holding up in the apartment from where continuous firing was on for 6 hours. Abaaoud is said to be a Belgian national who has been active with the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria, sources told news agency AFP. The police also arrested 7 people.
Troops patrolled the streets in Saint Denis cordoning off the area completely, while heavily-armed policemen engaged in gunfire with those hiding in an apartment.
Eyewitnesses in Saint Denis said that they heard at least 7 explosions from the shooting site.
Alexia, a local resident told AFP she heard shots and “booms like grenades and then intermittent bursts of gunfire”.
“I heard bursts of machine gunfire…I got out (of the car), masked policemen stopped us and told us to leave,” said Reda, a taxi driver in St Dennis.
In the gunfire, one policeman died and at least three others were injured. The raid began before dawn, at around 04:30 am, on an apartment at the crossroads of Rue de la Republique and Rue Corbillon.
Raids were being carried out across France after footage from one of the attack sites revealed a ‘ninth suspect’ may have been involved. It is still not clear if this ‘ninth man’ was one of two suspected accomplices detained in Belgium or was on the run.
Police also carried out raids in South West France, in Ariege, Toulouse and the department of the Haute-Garonne.
On Tuesday, two Air France flights from the United States were diverted after a bomb scare and an international soccer match was called off in Hannover in Germany where thousands of fans in the stadium had to be evacuated.
In Syria, France and Russia bombed targets to counter Islamic State for the coordinated Paris massacre and the downing of a Russian airliner over Sinai on October 31.
(With inputs from agencies)