A terrorist cell that was ‘ready to act’ was neutralized during Wednesday’s operation north of Paris, officials say, confirming that at least two people were killed. Eight others have been arrested.
Paris prosecutor François Molins said investigators had received information this week that suspected ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud was actually in France, and not in Syria as was previously thought. A person subsequently told investigators that Abaaoud was hiding in an apartment complex in Saint-Denis.
“The testimony that we received on the 16th of November was taken seriously, but also cautiously because of the risk of deception,” Molins told reporters on early Wednesday evening, the first briefing since Saturday. “The assault was carried out at 4:20 a.m. this morning.”
Wednesday’s raid in Saint-Denis was carried out by members of the anti-terror unit RAID and the elite police unit BRI, but the team encountered difficulties when an explosive charge failed to force open a reinforced door, allowing suspects inside the residence to prepare themselves.
Molins said more than 5,000 rounds of ammunition were fired during the course of the operation, which continued for several hours. At one point, a woman set off her suicide belt, causing an explosion that caused a part of the floor to collapse. A second suspect was shot dead.
“RAID managed to arrest three individuals, of whom one was wounded in the arm. They’ve been arrested and their identities are being checked,” Molins explained. He added that it is not yet known whether any other suspects were inside who may have been killed in the suicide bombing.
“As I speak now, I cannot yet give you an exact conclusion as far as the identities and the number of people who died. What I can say is that at least two people are dead, but it will take a bit longer to give additional details because the building had to be propped up as it was at risk of collapsing,” the prosecutor said.
In addition to casualties among the suspects, five members of RAID were injured.
A second operation was carried out at a home elsewhere in Saint-Denis, targeting an individual who was allegedly in contact with the suspects and who may have made an apartment available to them. That operation took place without incident.
A total of 8 people were arrested in Wednesday morning’s operations, including one woman. Their identities were not immediately clear, but suspected ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud and attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam were not among them. It is unclear whether they could be among those killed.
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