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Paris shootout sees two killed and eight arrested but fate of 'mastermind' unknown

Prosecutor Francois Molins says the identity of the dead has not been confirmed.

Updated: 7.39pm

France Paris Attacks Bullet holes are pictured around a window on the back side of the raided house. Source: AP/Press Association Images

PARIS AUTHORITIES SAY that a terrorist team was “neutralised” by a police raid this morning that led to two suspected Jihadists being killed and eight arrested.

The massive raid in the suburb of Saint-Denis saw police fire 5,000 rounds of ammunition in a shootout with the suspected terrorists.

Two suspected Jihadists were killed, including a woman who blew herself up.

The raid was part of the police hunt for Abdelhamid Abaaoud, believed to be the mastermind of last week’s attacks on the French capital that killed 129 people.

This evening, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said that Abaaoud was not among those arrested and his fate is unknown.

“A new team of terrorists was neutralised and all indications are that given their arms, their organisational structure and their determination, the commando could have struck,” Molins said.

He did not eliminate the possibility that Abaaoud was killed, saying the identities of those dead is still being investigated.

Source: BFMTV/YouTube

(Police assault on the sound and the explosion in the apartment)

At least two bodies were found in the badly damaged building after the shootout, but their state was complicating efforts to identify them, Molins told a press conference.

The body that had sustained a number of gunshots was “not in a state that allows it to be identified”, he said.

Due to the severe damage to the building, it was impossible to know how many died and who they were, the prosecutor said.

“I am not able to give you a precise number and identity of those killed. There are at least two dead and verifications will likely take longer than expected,” he added

CNN earlier reported that five police officers sustained minor injuries and a police dog was killed in the assault.

Eyewitnesses described seeing troops patrolling the streets as heavily-armed police swapped gunfire with people holed up in an apartment.

Two people in the apartment were killed, including the woman who blew herself up with an explosives vest.

Source: Associated Press/YouTube

Eight arrests have been made, but none of the people detained have been identified.

The raid began before dawn, at around 4.00am (03.30 GMT), at an apartment at the crossroads of Rue de la Republique and Rue Corbillon.

Molins said telephone surveillance and witness reports “led us to believe” that Abaaoud had been in the apartment.

Abaaoud is an Islamic State fighter who was previously thought to be in Syria after fleeing raids in his native Belgium earlier this year.

“A cowardly act” 

French President Francois Hollande has today addressed French mayors to discuss proposals to extend the state of emergency by three months.

Source: Sky News

Hollande said his thought were with the families of all victims of the “cowardly act” last Friday night.

Speaking to the officials, he said operations in Syria have been intensified and called for a “large coalition to carry out decisive strikes”.

Not all countries have the same approach or same allies but what is at stake is the annihilation of an army which threatens the whole world and not only some countries as opposed to others.

He said the extension of the state of emergency in France will mean “some temporary restrictions to freedoms” such as administrative searches and home arrests.

This is necessary in order to dismantle the terrorist network and isolate radicalised elements within the country, he told mayors, as well as to put a stop to trafficking which might give them the logistics and money they need to commit “heinous crimes”.

Hollande told the assembly of mayors that these decisions are not taken lightly but assured them France “will remain a country of freedom”.

The assembly of French mayors singing the French national anthem. Source: Sky News

The proposal to extend the state of emergency will be put to vote by lawmakers tomorrow and Friday. Hollande will also meet Putin in Moscow on 26 November, two days after seeing US President Barack Obama in Washington.

Exchange of fire

Residents of the Paris suburb where the raid took place this morning, some of whom were evacuated in their underwear, said they had been caught in a terrifying exchange of fire.

Hayat, 26, had been leaving a friend’s apartment where she had spent the night when the shots erupted.

“I heard gunfire,” she said. “I could have been hit by a bullet. I never thought terrorists could have hid here.”

The raid came after footage from the scene of one of Paris attacks revealed a ninth suspect may have taken part. It is known that seven were killed in the carnage on Friday, most after detonating suicide belts.

It was not clear if the ninth man was one of two suspected accomplices detained in Belgium or was still on the run, potentially with 26-year-old fugitive Frenchman Salah Abdeslam who took part in the attacks with his suicide-bomber brother Brahim.

Police also carried out multiple raids in southwest France. The operations were part of an anti-terrorism strategy but not directly linked to the Paris attacks, an investigator said.

Abdelhamid Abaaoud Abdelhamid Abaaoud Source: AP

The area is home to the Stade de France, one of several places hit by gunmen and suicide bombers on Friday in the worst ever attack on French soil, which was claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group.

The coordinated assaults killed 129 people and injured more than 350, some of them critically.

Source: Steve Parsons/PA

‘Booms like grenades’

A local resident who identified herself as Alexia told AFP she heard shots, “‘booms like grenades and then intermittent bursts of gunfire”.

“I heard bursts of machine gun fire,” Reda, a taxi driver, said. “I got out (of the car), masked policemen stopped us and told us to leave.”

The raid came as Europe was placed on high alert after footage from the scene of one of Friday’s attacks revealed a ninth suspect may have taken part.

Source: Steve Parsons/PA

It was not clear if this ninth man was one of two suspected accomplices detained in Belgium or was on the run, potentially with 26-year-old fugitive Frenchman Salah Abdeslam who took part in the attacks with his suicide-bomber brother Brahim.

Police also carried out raids in southwestern France, in Ariege, Toulouse and the department of the Haute-Garonne.

The operations were part of an anti-terrorism strategy and not the probe into the Paris, an investigator told AFP.

Additional reporting from AP and by Orla Ryan, Catherine Healy, Michelle Hennessy and Rónán Duffy.

© – AFP, 2015

Read: Father of suicide attacker travelled to Syria last year to try and bring him home

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