Mastermind of Paris terrorist attacks killed by commandos in early raid, reports say

Suspected ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud and another person were reportedly killed in the raid on an apartment in Saint-Denis, a Paris suburb.

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PARIS,  Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the Belgian man authorities believe orchestrated the terrorist attacks on Paris a week ago, was killed during a blazing gun battle north of the city early Wednesday, two senior European intelligence officials have reportedly confirmed.

Authorities, who have been searching for Abaaoud for five days, targeted him during Wednesday morning’s raid on the Rue du Corbillon in Saint-Denis, a suburb of Paris, The Washington Post reported, citing the two unnamed officials.

The Post’s report said the Belgian-born militant and a young woman were killed in the raid by French police commandos. Several others were arrested, officials said, during the Saint-Denis raid and at other locations Wednesday.

Five police officers were injured and a 7-year-old police dog named Diesel was killed in the battle, which saw authorities shoot 5,000 rounds of gunfire that at one point went uninterrupted for about an hour.

The apartment is located near the Place Jean Jaurès, a main square in Saint-Denis not far from the Stade de France — the national stadium targeted by three explosions in last week’s attacks, which killed 129 people and wounded more than 350 others.

Despite reported confirmation by the two European intelligence officials, French prosecutor François Molins said there is some trouble confirming that the body belongs to Abaaoud.

“The state of the body does not allow for identification,” he said at a news conference Wednesday.

Molins also indicated that police found a discarded cellphone that contained information that led them to a series of safe houses used by the perpetrators in Friday’s attacks.

“A lot of work was done as part of this investigation, which made it possible to obtain, through phone records, surveillance and testimony, elements that could have suggested that the man named Abaaoud was potentially in an apartment used for plotting in St.-Denis,” Molins said.

More than 100 heavily armed police and soldiers stormed the third-floor apartment in Saint-Denis just after 4 a.m. local time Wednesday in an effort to find Abaaoud, 27, who also went by the names Au Omar (Umar) al-Baljiki and Abdel-hamid Abaaoud.

“We were not prepared for this discovery,” Saint-Denis Mayor Didier Paillard said. “This is a city that has 130 different nationalities, including people who come from war zones. We are a population that needs serenity.”

Following the raid, French President Francois Hollande Reaffirmed France is ”at war” in an address to the country’s mayors. He also rejected suggestions the terrorists in Friday’s attack were linked to the refugee crisis, noting that 30,000 refugees will be admitted in the country by 2018.

“Some people have tried to draw a connection between the movement of refugees from the Middle East and the terrorist threat. This link exists because people from Iraq and Syria live in areas controlled by Islamic State and are killed by those who attack us,” he said.

Meanwhile, police continue their hunt for two additional suspects — accused attack participant Salah Abdeslam and an unidentified accomplice, who police acknowledged Tuesday. Abdeslam, 26, allegedly took part in the shootings and rented a car used in the attacks. The other accomplice’s role was not immediately clear.

Also Wednesday, Turkish police detained eight suspects supposedly linked to the Islamic State terror group who had arrived at an Istanbul airport from Casablanca, Morocco. The men, who said they are tourists, were headed to Germany, police said.

The arrests come one day after police detained and released seven suspects near Aachen, Germany, after it was determined they had no close connection to the Paris attacks.

UPI

By Amy R. Connolly, Shawn Price and Doug G. Ware