Two suspects killed in Paris police raid

French soldiers secured the area as shots were exchanged in Saint-Denis in an operation to catch suspects [Jacky Naegelen/Reuters]

Two suspects linked to the attacks in Paris have died after police raided an apartment in a northern suburb of the French capital, a prosecutor said.

Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said on Wednesday that investigators could not at this point identify the dead, adding that the suspected ringleader behind the attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, was not arrested in the operation.

Abaaoud's fate remains unclear. The Belgian national is a key suspect in Friday's attacks, in which at least 129 people were killed. In a press conference, Molins said eight people, including seven men and a woman, were arrested in Saint-Denis early on Wednesday.


Forensic experts were examining the apartment after a female suspect killed herself by detonating a vest rigged with explosives at the start of the raid, Molins said. One image taken during the raid showed heavily armed police hauling away a naked man from the building at the centre of the raid.

Molins said more than 5,000 bullets were fired by police during the operation. Three people were wounded in the shootout at the apartment, he added.

Hollande defiant

Speaking at an assembly of French mayors, President François Hollande called for a larger coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which has claimed responsibility for the attacks in Paris.

Hollande also confirmed that a "dangerous and heavy" police operation had ended with the deaths and arrests. "It was aimed at neutralising last night the terrorists based in Saint-Denis who are linked to the authors of the attacks and awful crimes of Friday night," Hollande said on Wednesday.

"Two of the terrorists have died in the raid. There have been arrests. I can imagine the anguish which took hold of the residents of Saint-Denis in the early hours of the morning and I salute their calmness.

"I want to also express all my solidarity with the guards of the Mayor of Saint-Denis who already experienced the attack close to Stade de France on Friday." Residents of the area in northern Paris first reported hearing bursts of gunfire at 4:30am (3:30 GMT) as police exchanged fire with the suspects.

After a short lull in the operation, at least seven explosions were heard at 6:30 GMT, with more blasts reported later in the morning as a standoff ensued. French soldiers secured the area as shots were exchanged in Saint-Denis in an operation to catch suspects [Jacky Naegelen/Reuters]

About 50 soldiers, heavily armed special police units, and ambulances gathered at the scene as a helicopter hovered overhead.

"Saint-Denis is a relatively poor area, housing many immigrants. It is near the area of the national stadium Stade de France, where suicide bombers claimed several lives during Friday's attacks," Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland said, reporting from the scene.

Police also detained a man who said the suspects were staying in his flat. "I found out that it's at my house, and that the people are holed up at my flat. I didn't know they were terrorists," Jawad Ben Dow told the Reuters news agency.

"Someone asked me to put two people up for three days and I did them a favour, it's normal. I don't know where they came from I don't know anything. If I'd known do you think I'd have done it?" he said.

Police ordered onlookers to clear the vicinity as ambulances and fire engines lined street. Friday night's attacks in the French capital raised security concerns around the world.

Two Air France flights from the United States diverted for emergency landings on Tuesday because of bomb threats. All passengers were reported safe and no explosives were found on the flights.

Hollande on Wednesday held a meeting to discuss proposals to extend by three months the state of emergency declared after attacks, the worst in France since World War II.

It will then be put to vote by lawmakers on Thursday and Friday. In a sign of the nervousness gripping Europe after Friday's carnage, a football match between Germany and the Netherlands was cancelled on Tuesday and the crowd evacuated after police acted on a "serious" bomb threat.

As police stepped up the hunt for the fugitives, French and Russian jets pounded ISIL targets in the group's self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa in Syria for a third consecutive day.

France and Russia have vowed retaliation for the Paris attacks and last month's bombing of a Russian airliner, also claimed by ISIL, which have galvanised international resolve to destroy the group and end Syria's more than four-year civil war.

"It's necessary to establish direct contact with the French and work with them as allies," Russian President Vladimir Putin said as France prepared to send an aircraft carrier to the eastern Mediterranean.

Hollande will meet Putin in Moscow on November 26, two days after seeing US President Barack Obama in Washington.