Paris, Nov 18 (IANS) A sniper fatally shot a terrorist while a woman suicide bomber blew herself up on Wednesday as elite police personnel mounted an over seven-hour operation in a suburb here to catch the mastermind of the deadly Paris terror attack, authorities said.
French Minister Bernard Cazeneuve confirmed that the police assault was over and that two terrorists were dead and seven had been arrested. He paid tribute to the police personnel who have “never before come under such gunfire”, the media reported.
The raid, which saw a string of massive explosions interspersed with heavy gunfire, was targeted to get Abdelhamid Abaaoud, 27, a Belgian of Moroccan origin and the alleged mastermind of the November 13 terror attack that killed 129 people and injured over 350 in Paris. It was not clear whether Abaaoud was dead or arrested.
The raid that started around 4.30 a.m. at an apartment in Saint Denis, a suburb with a sizeable immigrant population, went on till noon, France 24 news channel reported.
Christian, a resident of Saint Denis’ rue de la République, told French channel BFMTV that there was noise of gunfire. Later, blasts smashed the windows in the flat and a mattress was flung out of the window, The Telegraph reported.
“I’ve been hearing gunshots continuously, like fireworks… There have been some breaks but… to me it sounds like continuous gunshots,” another resident, Benson Hoi, told the BBC.
Seven suspects were arrested while five policemen were injured.
Paris prosecutor Francois Moulins said that “surveillance and telephone surveillance led us to believe that Abaaoud was in a ‘plotters’ flat in Saint-Denis”.
Police found weapons, explosives, suicide vests and plans for another terrorist attack in the flat, according to Europe1 Radio.
Seven deafening blasts shook Saint Denis after truckloads of armed policemen swarmed the area where terrorists were suspected to be holed up in the apartment.
One of the suspects was shot by a police sniper, while the second, a woman, blew herself up at the very start of the operation, Molins said.
“It is currently impossible to give the identify of those arrested, which is being verified,” Molins added.
Another suspect in the Paris attack, Salah Abdeslam, was also said to be a target in the raid.
Media reports indicated that the woman suicide bomber may have been related to Abaaoud. She fired her AK-47 at police before blowing herself up. A police dog was killed in the suicide bombing.
Roads were blocked off around Rue de la Republique in Saint Denis during the police siege.
At least five people were believed to have been in the targeted third floor flat.
Witnesses told MailOnline that the large explosions may have been caused by the suicide bomber and possibly hand grenades.
As the gun battle raged in Paris, two Air France flights headed from the US to France were diverted due to bomb scare. Both flights landed safely on Tuesday night, the media reported.
Also, a football match between Germany and the Netherlands was cancelled in Hannover in Germany on Tuesday evening after a threat of attacks with explosives was received.