The residents of the suburb of Saint-Denise in the north of Paris were woken at 4.30 a.m. to the sound of gunfire and sirens as the French security forces conducted an operation to apprehend Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the Belgian national suspected to be the ringleader of last Friday’s terror attacks in the city.
Saint-Denise is an area close to the Stade de France, the national stadium that was one of the sites of the November 13 bomb attacks. The target of the pre-dawn raid was an apartment in which four suspects, including Abaaoud, were believed to have been holed up. The operation resulted in a stand-off for several hours between the security forces and the suspects.
As it happened: >Paris anti-terror raid
French media reports said one woman suicide-bomber blew herself up in the apartment while another terrorist was killed by a grenade. Seven suspects, including a woman, were arrested in the operation. The police have not named any of those who died or were arrested. It is not known whether Mr. Abaaoud is among them.
Alarmed residents were warned to remain inside their homes and keep away from windows. Some were evacuated. Images of the shootout showed how heavy the deployment of armed security personnel was in a narrow street lined with shops with closed shutters. Schools and colleges in Saint-Denise and public transport were cancelled.
Quoting investigation sources, AP reports that the terrorists trained for the Paris attacks in Raqqa, and at least 24 people were part of the operation.
French President Francois Hollande, in a speech at a conference of the nation’s mayors, urged the people not to “give into fear” and stay calm. “I can imagine the concern of the people of Saint-Denis and would like to comment on their levelheadedness and express solidarity with the mayor of Saint-Denis because the attack on the Stade de France happened in his constituency,” he said.
The French media has reported the death of a police dog named Diesel, a seven-year old Belgian Shepherd police attack dog, which was killed by the terrorists.
Today, Mr. Hollande will seek to extend the state of emergency to three months following the worst terror attacks in French history. He will meet U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington on November 24, and Russian President Vladimir Putin two days later.