Two people died and seven people were arrested Wednesday during an armed police raid in the Paris suburb of Saint Denis targeting the suspected mastermind of last week’s deadly terror attacks in the French capital, local media reported.
The operation took place at an apartment where the key suspect, Belgian national Abdelhamid Abaaoud, was possibly holed up, but it was not immediately clear whether he was among the nine. A French prosecutor said those killed or detained during the raid have yet to be identified.
Explosions and gunfire were heard at the scene as heavily armed police surrounded the apartment to hunt down those responsible for Friday’s gun and bomb attacks in Paris that killed about 130 people.
A woman wearing an explosive vest blew herself up as police officers tried to storm the apartment and one man was also killed in the standoff, The Associated Press reported. The raid began before dawn and continued more than seven hours. The woman could have been a cousin of Abaaoud, according to French media.
Five police officers were reportedly injured.
CNN quoted police sources as saying the suspects targeted in Saint Denis were “about to move on some kind of operation,” and the raid was “right on time.”
Local reports said the suspects planned a terrorist attack in La Defense, a major business district located west of Paris.
The Islamic State militant group has claimed responsibility for last week’s Paris massacre.
France has agreed with the United States, Britain and Russia to intensify air strikes in Syria, where the Islamic State is based.
The French government approved on Wednesday a bill to extend the country’s state of emergency that President Francois Hollande declared soon after the Paris attacks for three months and adopted a policy to seek constitutional revision within three months to grant more power to the president.
So far, France has mobilized about 115,000 military members and police officers throughout the country to counter terrorism.
On Tuesday night, two Paris-bound Air France aircraft departing from U.S. cities made emergency landings because of anonymous threats received after they had taken off, according to U.S. media reports.
Air France Flight 65 from Los Angeles International Airport landed at Salt Lake City International Airport, and Flight 55 from Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia landed in Halifax, Canada.
Both flights, originally bound for Charles de Gaulle airport, landed safely, according to the reports.
(Kyodo, Japan Economic Newswire)