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Paris attacks 'mastermind' Abdelhamid Abaaoud could have died in Saint Denis siege

By PA Reporters

The Belgian jihadist suspected of masterminding the Paris terror atrocities may have been killed when police stormed a flat in the north of the city.

Officers fired about 5,000 rounds of ammunition during a pre-dawn exchange of gunfire that lasted about an hour as the terrorist cell barricaded themselves in the hideout.

The bodies of those killed in the siege had not been identified last night.

Eight people were arrested after police swat teams raided the building in the Saint-Denis suburb early this morning.

Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said they did not include Abdelhamid Abaaoud, believed to be the ringleader of last Friday's massacres, or Salah Abdeslam, one of the suspected gunmen who is now the focus of an international manhunt. But two European officials told the Washington Post Abaaoud had been killed during the seven-hour police operation.

Two people died, one of whom was a woman who blew herself up, but officials have not yet been able to identify the bodies due to their condition, Mr Molins said.

The raid was launched after a discarded mobile phone and tapped telephone conversations allowed investigators to identify a series of safe houses, with the suggestion that Abaaoud may have been holed up in an apartment less than a mile from the Stade de France, where one of the terror attacks took place.

Heavily armed police squads initially were thwarted by an armoured door and had to use assault guns, sniper rifles, grenades and explosives during the "extremely difficult" operation.

Two bodies were found in rubble after an explosion, thought to have been caused when a woman detonated a suicide vest.

Mr Molins said: "At least one terrorist killed herself with an explosive. The floor of the flat collapsed and the state of the bodies and what is left of them will demand some more investigation.

"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."

Two men, one of whom was injured, were found inside the flat and arrested. The eight arrested included one woman and a man whose flat was used as a hideout by the terror cell. They were all last night being interrogated.

Mr Molins said: "The identities of the people who were arrested in this building are not absolutely certain, but Abaaoud and Salah Abdeslam are not part of the people who have been arrested."

Several police officers were slightly injured during the raid.

Meanwhile, a Jewish teacher was reportedly stabbed in Marseille by three people claiming to be Islamic State supporters. They approached on scooters and showed him a mobile phone photo of Mohamed Merah, who killed seven people in France in 2012.

The victim suffered three knife wounds and was taken to hospital, but officials said his life was not in danger.

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