Two dead in hunt for Paris attack mastermind

Seven suspects arrested as terror unit dismantled in seven-hour raid


Afp November 19, 2015
Policemen stand guard in Paris as special forces raid an apartment. PHOTO: AFP

PARIS:


The suspected mastermind of the Paris attacks, Abelhamid Abaaoud, remains at large even as a woman blew herself up and a suspected militant was killed during a massive police assault in Paris targeting another terror unit, prosecutors said.


Just before dawn, gunfire and explosions rang out in Saint-Denis area in the north of the city, near the Stade de France stadium, as terrified residents were evacuated or told to stay in their homes.

Authorities arrested seven suspects and five police officers suffered minor injuries in the operation – a seven-hour stand-off between security forces and a group of militants holed up in an apartment.

Black-clad elite police were seen hauling away a naked suspect in the streets near where three suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the football stadium at the start of Friday’s attacks.

However, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said that Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected mastermind of Friday’s attacks in Paris that killed 132 people, was not among those arrested and the two bodies found in the apartment could not be immediately identified.

Molins said that a probe into the attacks allowed police “to obtain telephonic surveillance and witness testimony which led us to believe that Abaaoud was likely to be in an... apartment in Saint-Denis”.

Raid halted terror unit

Molins said that a possible tragedy had been averted since weapons found in the raid suggested that it was a ‘commando’ unit capable of staging a fresh attack.

“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,” said Paris prosecutor Francois Molins. Residents of the Paris suburb said they had been caught in the 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 hidden here.”

Police are hunting for two other individuals, including 26-year-old Salah Abdeslam, suspected of taking part in the attacks with his suicide-bomber brother Brahim. Their third brother Mohamed lit candles at a vigil in Molenbeek, Brussels. French President Francois Hollande praised security forces for their role in the operation which he said proved the country was involved in a “war against terrorism”.

He told a gathering of mayors that municipal police would be given more weapons and equipment from the stock of the national police.

But Hollande urged the nation not to “give in to fear” or excessive reactions in the wake of the attacks. “No anti-Semitic or anti-Muslim act can be tolerated.”

Friday sermon to condemn terrorism

The body representing Muslims in France said it would ask all 2,500 mosques in the country to condemn “all forms of violence or terrorism” in prayers this Friday.  The message will condemn such acts “unambiguously”, the French Muslim Council said.

As police stepped up the hunt for the fugitives, French and Russian jets pounded IS targets in the group’s Syrian stronghold of Raqa for a third consecutive day, killing at least 33 IS militants.

Church doors must stay open: Pope

Pope Francis said Wednesday that the doors of Catholic churches around the world must remain open, despite increased security fears in the aftermath of the Paris attacks.

“Please, no armoured doors in the Church, everything open,” the 78-year-old pontiff told pilgrims in St Peter’s square, Italy’s AGI news agency reported.

“There are places in the world where doors should not be locked with a key. There are still some but there are also many where armoured doors have become the norm.


Published in The Express Tribune, November 19th, 2015.

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