Mastermind Of Paris Attacks Killed In Raid

French special police forces launched an operation in northern Paris to catch Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected mastermind behind the Paris attacks

Nov 18, 2015 at 1:10 PM ET

The suspected mastermind behind last week’s series of coordinated terror attacks across the French capital was among those killed in a police raid on Wednesday in Saint-Denis, Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins has said.

The fierce gun battle that erupted after French special police forces descended on the Paris suburb to catch the suspect, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, netted eight suspects. Molins had told reporters on Wednesday that two people were killed in the raid, in addition to the eight arrested, including a woman who blew herself up, but neither of the pair were immediately identified until Thursday.

Explosions and gunshots rattled across the area on Wednesday, and residents were told to stay in their homes during the operation, which last for more than seven hours.

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Residents in Saint-Denis hunkered inside as heavy shooting, including automatic gunfire, and explosions rumbled across the suburb. Roads were blocked off, military and emergency services were on the scene and the town was on lockdown during an hours-long standoff, reports said.

welcome to #SaintDenis warzone

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  #Saint-Denis #assaut #operationantiterroriste #terroristes #peur   A photo posted by lallayasmine (@lallayasmine) on

Saint-Denis is home to France’s national stadium, where one in a string of attacks took place on Friday night, killing at least 129 people and injuring more than 300 others. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for Friday’s violence, and police across the continent have launched a sweeping manhunt for suspects.

Abaaoud, 27, is believed to be behind the attacks. The Belgian extremist was first named by authorities as wanted in January after a shootout in Belgium during a raid on a cell plotting to kill police, the Guardian reported. In an interview published in the Islamic State’s Dabiq Magazine in February, Abaaoud bragged about his subsequent escape from Belgium despite the watchful eye of “crusader intelligence.”

Abaaoud, of Moroccan origin, is said to be from Molenbeek, in Brussels, where multiple arrests and police raids have taken place in recent days. In July, Abaaoud was sentenced in absentia to 20 years in prison by a Belgian court, along with 31 other jihadist organizers, for a plot against Belgian police.

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Now, major world powers are bolstering their fight against ISIS in response to the violence that Abaaoud is suspected of having helped plan and execute. France pummeled Islamic State targets in Syria since Friday, including command and training sites in the area of Raqqa, The Wall Street Journal reported. The U.S. also vowed to step up its air campaign against ISIS.

On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin promised to strengthen the country’s Syria bombing campaign after Moscow said for the first time that a bomb brought down a Russian passenger plane on Oct. 31 as it flew over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

Authorities are on alert worldwide about the possibility of more jihadist attacks. Overnight Tuesday, two Air France flights heading from the U.S. to Paris were halted after bomb threats. One leaving from Los Angeles stopped in Salt Lake City while the second, departing from Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C., landed in Nova Scotia. Reuters reported that all passengers disembarked safely.

On Wednesday, Denmark boosted its internal alert level to “significant elevated preparedness” as “a result of the current uncertain situation in several European countries,” the Associated Press reported. Later in the day, Terminal 3 at Copenhagen’s international airport was evacuated due to a “suspicious” bag.