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#ParisBloodBath : Paris investigators trying to determine fate of alleged attack ringleader after raid

Paris investigators trying to determine fate of alleged attack ringleader after raid.

The hunt for the plotter behind last week's attacks in Paris took a bloody
turn Wednesday to a suburb outside the capital where a fierce gun battle with
police left at least two people dead and eight arrested.

The fate of  27-year-old Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the alleged ringleader, was
unclear, with authorities saying he was not taken alive and that they were
trying to determine if he died in the raid.
Police launched the operation after receiving information from tapped phone
calls, surveillance and tipoffs suggesting Abaaoud was holed up in an apartment
in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis.

Terrified residents awoke to gunfire and explosions as a SWAT team swooped in
and "neutralized" what Paris prosecutor Franç​ois Molins called a "new team of
terrorists" that appeared ready for a new attack.

Molins said the identities of the dead were still being investigated but that
neither Abaaoud nor another fugitive, Salah Abdeslam, was in custody.

"At this time, I'm not in a position to give a precise and definitive number
for the people who died, nor their identities, but there are at least two dead
people," Molins said.

The site of Wednesday's raid is not far from the Stade de France soccer
stadium; three suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the stadium during an
international soccer game as part of the attacks last Friday that left 129
people dead and hundreds wounded.

A member of the French judicial police inspects the
apartment raided by special forces earlier in Saint-Denis, near Paris, during an
operation to catch fugitives from Friday night's attacks. (Gonzalo
Molins said police units including snipers threw grenades and fired 5,000
rounds in an gun battle that began before dawn on Wednesday. The dead included a
woman who was believed to have blown herself up with a suicide belt, though
Molins said "this point needs to be verified by an analysis of the body and
human remains."

Five police were wounded and a SWAT team dog was killed in the intense gun battle during
which the third floor of the apartment building collapsed.

Gunfire and 'really huge boom'

Residents described hunkering down in fear.

"We tried to stop our children hearing the noise," said Farah Appane, who
lives about 80 metres from where the raid took place. "My 19-month-old was
crying. Our 8-year-old said `What is it? Are there more attacks?"'

She said she could hear gunfire on and off for over an hour, followed by "one
really huge boom."

The head of one of the special forces units that took part in the raid,
Jean-Michel Fauverge, said police used drones and robots equipped with cameras
in an attempt to see what was going on inside during the raid but there was too
much debris.

When they entered the building they found a body that had fallen from the
third floor to the second, he told the French newspaper Le Figaro.

"The corpse was mutilated, probably from grenades and he wasn't
recognizable," Fauverge said. "Other people were in the stairwell, two men
hiding under blankets and whatever they could find. We arrested them."

8 people arrested

Molins said five men were taken into custody in the apartment building,
including two who were pulled from the rubble. A woman and two other men,
including the man whose apartment was used as the cell's hideout, were arrested
on a nearby street.

France Paris Attacks

This undated image, made available in the Islamic
State's English-language magazine Dabiq, shows Abdelhamid Abaaoud. (Militant
photo via Associated Press)
Authorities didn't release their identities; Molins would only say that
Abaaoud and Abdeslam were not among them.

Investigators have identified Abaaoud, a Belgian of Moroccan descent, as the
chief architect of the attacks Friday against the soccer stadium, a crowded
concert hall and popular night spots in a trendy Paris neighbourhood.

A U.S. official briefed on intelligence matters said Abaaoud was a key figure
in an Islamic State external operations cell that U.S. intelligence agencies
have been tracking for months.


French soldiers were also on the scene in Saint-Denis
during the gunfire and explosions. (Peter Dejong/Associated Press)
Abaaoud is believed to have escaped to Syria after a January police raid in
Belgium, but he has bragged in Islamic State propaganda of his ability to move
back and forth between Europe and Syria undetected.

Belgian Justice Minister Koen Geens also said he could not confirm whether
Abaaoud was among those killed in the raid.

Speaking after the seven-hour siege ended, French President François Hollande
praised the bravery of the security services and said that France was "at war"
with the Islamic State group, which has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
He called for an international coalition to destroy the group, which controls
territory in Syria and Iraq.

Britain said one of the Royal Navy's most advanced warships would support a
French aircraft carrier that is on its way to join operations against IS
militants in Syria.

In its English language magazine, the Islamic State group said it will
continue its violence and "retaliate with fire and bloodshed" for insults
against the Prophet Muhammad and "the multitudes killed and injured in crusader

On Wednesday, a video was posted on the Daily Mail website that appears to
come from security cameras showing an nearly empty restaurant erupt into chaos
with bullets smashing into walls and diners and staff diving for cover. A gunman
is seen briefly when he approaches the restaurant's terrace and points his rifle
at someone laying on the ground. A moment later he leaves, and a woman rises and
dashes for safety.

The restaurant is not named in Daily Mail's accompanying article but
examination by The Associated Press suggests it is Casa Nostra, a pizzeria near
the Bonne Biere, another restaurant hit by the attackers and where five people
were killed.


Members of the French police special forces at the scene
of the raid. (Benoit Tessier/Reuters)
The attacks have put France on edge and the raid Wednesday only heightened
fears that there could be more cells preparing to strike.

French authorities have said seven attackers were killed Friday -- six who
blew themselves up and one who was killed by police. Abdeslam got away, as well
as possibly another, so far unidentified, assailant, officials said.

Molins said Wednesday that investigators found a cellphone in a garbage can
outside the Bataclan concert hall where 89 of the victims of Friday's carnage
died. It contained a text message sent about 20 minutes after the massacre
began. "We're off, it's started," it read.

Molins said investigators were still trying to identify the recipient of the

A Spanish security official said Wednesday that French authorities had sent a
bulletin to police across Europe asking them to watch out for a Citroen Xsara
car that could be carrying Salah Abdeslam, whose brother, Brahim, was among the
attackers who blew themselves up.

French authorities have said most of the attackers -- five have been
identified so far -- were unknown to them. But two U.S. officials said that
many, though not all, of those identified were on the U.S. no-fly list. The
officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to
discuss the issue publicly.

French authorities declared a state of emergency after the attacks, and
security forces have conducted 414 raids, making 60 arrests and seizing 75
weapons, including 11 military-style firearms, the Interior Ministry said.
Parliament is expected to vote by the end of the week to extend the state of
emergency for three months. 
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