Paris attacks: 'Mastermind' Abdelhamid Abaaoud dead
International manhunt continues for prime suspect of attacks Salah Abdeslam
The suspected mastermind behind the deadly Paris terror attacks Abdelhamid Abaaoud, is dead, French officials have said.
'Mastermind' Abdelhamid Abaaoud dead
Thursday November 19, 1pm
Abaaoud was identified as one of those killed in a major police raid in the French suburb of Saint Denis on Wednesday.
The 27-year-old Belgian jihadist is believed to have been the ringleader of last Friday's massacres which left 129 dead and wounded 368 others.
Abdelhamid Abaaoud was the target of the raid but his fate last night remained unclear.
In a statement, the Paris prosecutor's office confirmed that Abaaoud died in the raid and his body had been identified based on skin samples.
Saint Denis apartment raid neutralised a cell planning to launch new terror attacks
Heavily armed French SWAT teams swooped and neutralised a cell that was planning to launch new terror attacks, firing 5,000 rounds during an hours-long battle that left at least two people dead, including a woman who exploded an explosives belt, a prosecutor said.
The raid had targeted the suspected planner of the attacks, 27-year-old Abdelhamid Abaaoud, but his fate remained unclear.
Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said the identities of the dead were still being investigated, but that neither Abaoud nor the fugitive attacker 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," he told reporters.
Mr Molins said heavily armed police squads initially were thwarted by a reinforced door to the apartment in the Saint-Denis neighbourhood north of Paris and faced nearly incessant fire as they worked to enter.
Earlier, he said the raid was launched after information from tapped telephone conversations, surveillance and witness accounts indicated that Abaaoud might be in a safe house in the Saint-Denis suburb.
Investigators have identified Abaaoud, a Belgian of Moroccan descent, as the chief architect of Friday's attacks in Paris, which killed 129 people and wounded 368 others.
A US official briefed on intelligence matters said Abaaoud was a key figure in an Islamic State external operations cell that US intelligence agencies have been tracking for months.
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.
The site of Wednesday's raid is just over a mile from the Stade de France football stadium. Three suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the stadium during an international soccer match on Friday.
They were one of three teams of attackers who also targeted a rock concert at the Bataclan theatre as well popular night spots in a trendy Paris area. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the carnage, which has left France in mourning.
On Wednesday, residents of the Saint-Denis area were awakened by an explosion at around 4.20am.
Amine Guizani said the blast was followed by the sound of grenades and automatic gunfire.
"It was continuous. It didn't stop," he said. "It lasted from 4:20 until 5:30. It was a good hour. I couldn't say how many shots were fired, but it was probably 500. Hundreds, definitely. There were maybe 10 explosions."
Police cordoned off an area around the building in a narrow street lined with low-rise buildings. Riot police cleared people from the streets, pointing guns at residents to move them off the roads.
Mr Molins said the operation began with a pre-dawn shoot out and resulted in the arrest of eight people, including two found in the rubble and the man whose apartment was used as the cell's hideaway.
Several police officers were slightly injured and a SWAT team police dog was killed in the operation. The National Police said in a tweet that the seven-year-old Belgian Malinois named Diesel was "killed by terrorists".
Neither Mr Molins nor French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve would say whether some attackers might still be on the loose.
French authorities had previously said that at least eight people were directly involved in the bloodshed: seven who died in the attacks and one, Salah Abdeslam, who got away and slipped across the border to Belgium. A Spanish security official said Wednesday that French authorities have sent out a bulletin to police across Europe asking them to watch out for a Citroen Xsara car that could be carrying Abdeslam.
French officials have told AP they believe at least one other attacker was involved in Friday's carnage and is still at large, taking the number to at least nine.
Surveillance video obtained by AP also indicates that a team of three attackers carried out the shootings at one of the cafes. The video was among evidence authorities used in concluding that at least one other attacker was on the loose.
The brief clip shows two black-clad gunmen with automatic weapons calmly firing on the bar then returning toward a waiting car, whose driver was manoeuvering behind them. Authorities believe the car is the same black Spanish-made SEAT vehicle that was found Saturday with three Kalashnikovs inside.
The discrepancy in numbers adds to questions about how the cell was able to carry out its plot undetected.
The Paris attacks have galvanised international determination to confront the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq, bringing France, Russia and the United States closer to an alliance.
Speaking after Wednesday's raid, French President Francois Hollande praised the bravery of the security services and said that France was "at war" with IS, which he called a global threat.
"It is the entire country that's been attacked," Mr Hollande told a gathering of French mayors. "For what it represents, the fight we are leading to eradicate terrorism. And simply for what we are."
French fighter jets attacked IS targets in Syria for a third night, the defence ministry said. Mr Hollande said French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle had left to support military operations against IS in Syria.
He called for a "large coalition" against IS militants to destroy a group that threatens the whole world and "commits massacres" in the Middle East.
France's justice minister updated the overall number of wounded in the Paris attacks to 368 people, up from 352. The health minister said 195 people remained in hospital, 41 in intensive care and three in critical condition.
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.
Eagles of Death Metal break silence on Bataclan concert
The US rock band that were playing in the Bataclan concert hall which came under fire in Friday's terror attack in France have said they are "horrified" as they try to come to terms with what has happened.
At least three gunmen opened fire on the crowd of 1,500 concert goers at the Eagles of Death Metal gig killing 89 people.
Two of the gunmen then blew themselves up with suicide vests.
A British fatality was Nick Alexander, 36, from Colchester, who was selling merchandise for the rock group.
In their first statement posting on Facebook the band said they have returned home and although "bonded in grief" they are "proud to stand together with our new family".
It read: "While the band is now home safe, we are horrified and still trying to come to terms with what happened in France. Our thoughts and hearts are first and foremost with our brother Nick Alexander, our record company comrades Thomas Ayad, Marie Mosser, and Manu Perez, and all the friends and fans whose lives were taken in Paris, as well as their friends, families, and loved ones.
"Although bonded in grief with the victims, the fans, the families, the citizens of Paris, and all those affected by terrorism, we are proud to stand together, with our new family, now united by a common goal of love and compassion.
"We would like to thank the French police, the FBI, the U.S. and French State Departments, and especially all those at ground zero with us who helped each other as best they could during this unimaginable ordeal, proving once again that love overshadows evil.
"All EODM shows are on hold until further notice.
"Vive la musique, vive la liberté, vive la France, and vive EODM."
The post has been shared more than 9,000 times and has generated hundreds of messages of support.
Among the most moving comments is one from a couple who were in the front row.
It read: "They tried to kill me and my wife while dancing in front of our favorite band, thankfully they failed.
"We saw what no one should have to see.
"Our thoughts are with everyone who lost their lives and their relatives.
"The healing can now begin, and it starts with listening to EODM again....
"Peace, Love and Death Metal."
British couple in the Bataclan concert hall returned to rescue a friend
A British couple who were in the Bataclan concert hall attacked by terrorists in Paris have described how they went back inside to rescue a friend hurt in the crush to escape.
Maria and Patrick Moore, from Southampton, were enjoying the gig by US rockers Eagles of Death Metal - who they have seen 63 times in 14 countries - when they heard what they thought were "firecrackers" being let off which turned out to be gunfire.
The couple, who have been married for 29 years and have two grown-up children, were near the front of the stage and managed to escape when Mr Moore, 49, used his wife as a "battering ram" to get to a fire exit.
But as they were managing to get out of the building, they saw friend Brian Sanders tumble and fall under the fleeing crowds and they went back inside to help him.
Mrs Moore, 50, told the Southern Daily Echo: "He was being trodden on so we went back into the doorway and yanked him up.
"We could hear the gunfire getting closer and closer and we ran up the street.
"The lead singer ran past us with his girlfriend saying: 'Run, baby, run'.
"There was the crackle of gunshots and people stumbling on the steps, I can't remember hearing anyone screaming.
"It was all so surreal and the adrenaline took over. It was all a blur."
The couple were unharmed but they had to walk Mr Sanders to hospital for treatment to a broken collarbone as the ambulances gave priority to those with gunshot wounds.
Back at home, Mrs Moore added: "I've just tried to carry on with life, but maybe it's going to hit us later.
"I don't feel different but there's guilt that we got out and other people didn't."
International manhunt continues for prime suspect of attacks Salah Abdeslam
An international manhunt is continuing for the man who is suspected of carrying out the terror attacks in France on Friday.
It is understood French authorities sent out a bulletin to police across Europe asking them to watch out for a Citroen Xsara car that could be carrying Salah Abdeslam, who is wanted in connection with the attacks that left 129 people dead.
Apartment raid suspects 'about to carry out new attacks'
French media are reporting that the suspects targeted in the Saint-Denis raid on Wednesday morning were about to carry out new attacks as early on Thursday in Paris' La Defense business district.
French private radio station RTL has cited a police source making the claims.
The station's website also says that the woman who blew herself up during the police's assault on the Saint-Denis apartment made a phone call just before setting off her explosive vest.
This "could suggest a potential contact with accomplices," RTL claims.
David Cameron: UK 'can't dodge forever' how to dismantle Islamic State
David Cameron has insisted the question of how to dismantle Islamic State (IS) bases in Syria "cannot be dodged forever" as he pushed for Britain to join airstrikes.
The Prime Minister reiterated his determination to stage another Commons vote on extending RAF strikes from Iraq to Syria as he faced off with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn at PMQs.
"We cannot dodge forever the question of how to degrade Isil both in Iraq and in Syria," he said.
The premier also dismissed suggestions that the UK should only take military action if there was a UN security council resolution, saying he would not "outsource to Russian veto the decisions that we need to keep our country safe".
Paris alleged 'mastermind' targeted in apartment raid
A raid on an apartment in the French suburb where the suspected 'Mastermind' behind the terror attacks in Paris was 'surrounded' in a shoot-out has ended, the French Government has said.
The fate of Abdelhamid Abaaoud who was initially thought to be in Syria remains unclear.
Heavily armed police have been on the scene since 4.30am local time and remain in the area as the operation concludes.
Police were also seen searching a nearby church.
A French Government spokesman said: "We don't know if there are explosives so residents cannot yet return."
Seven people were arrested in the raid, AP news agency have reported.
The French prosecutor has confirmed that two people died in the Saint Denis raid.
Belfast Telegraph Digital