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2 Killed in Raid Targeting Mastermind of Paris Attacks

  • Lisa Bryant
  • VOA News

Hooded police officers detain a man in Saint-Denis, near Paris, Nov. 18, 2015.

Hooded police officers detain a man in Saint-Denis, near Paris, Nov. 18, 2015.

One suspect still holed up in Saint-Denis apartment may be Abdelhamid Abaaoud, possible mastermind of coordinated attacks that killed 129 and wounded more than 300.

A police raid in a Paris suburb ended after seven hours Wednesday with two people dead, seven arrested and the fate of the suspected mastermind of last Friday's attack in the French capital unclear.

A government spokeswoman announced around midday the raid at an apartment in Saint-Denis was over.

Authorities said they were seeking Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian national of Moroccan descent, but did not immediately confirm if he was in fact at the site.

The Paris prosecutor's office issued a statement saying the dead included a female suicide bomber who blew herself up. Three police officers were injured and a police dog was killed during the operation.

Authorities are also looking for other suspects tied to the November 13 attacks that killed 129 people and injured more than 300 others.

Crowd at standoff as riot policeman watches in Saint-Denis, Paris, Nov. 18, 2015. (D. Schearf/VOA)

Crowd at standoff as riot policeman watches in Saint-Denis, Paris, Nov. 18, 2015. (D. Schearf/VOA)

Three officials, who spoke late Tuesday on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to provide details about the ongoing investigation, said an analysis of Friday's attacks indicated one person directly involved was unaccounted for.

The officials said that fugitive has not been identified. French and Belgian authorities have issued a warrant for another person, Belgian-born Salah Abdeslam, whose brother was among the attackers who died.

Seven attackers died that night, three around the national stadium, three inside the Bataclan concert venue, and one at a restaurant nearby during attacks.

A team of gunmen also opened fire at a series of nightspots in one of Paris' trendiest neighborhoods, officials said.

Paris police also said Tuesday 16 people have been arrested and detained in the region since Sunday in relation to the attacks, and six firearms have been seized since a state of emergency was declared on Saturday.

A third Abdeslam brother, Mohammed, was briefly detained over the weekend by police.

'Turn himself in'

Speaking with a French television station Tuesday, Mohammed Abdeslam said, "We're family, we're thinking of him, we're wondering where he is, whether he's scared, is he eating. ... The best outcome would be for him to turn himself in so that judicial processes can shed light on this story."

Authorities believe that about 20 people were involved in planning and carrying out the attacks.

French special police forces secure the area as shots are exchanged in Saint-Denis, France, near Paris, Nov. 18, 2015.

French special police forces secure the area as shots are exchanged in Saint-Denis, France, near Paris, Nov. 18, 2015.

Also Tuesday, investigators identified the voice of a French jihadi convert, Fabien Clain, 36, of Toulouse, on the Islamic State claim of responsibility for the Paris strike. Clain is suspected of having been behind a failed attack on a church in the Paris suburb of Villejuif early this year.

Combined efforts

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday the militants "will feel even greater pressure" in the coming weeks as the United States, France and other allies increase their efforts against them.

Kerry spoke in Paris after meeting with French President Francois Hollande.

The French leader is due to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington November 24 to discuss ways to ramp up the campaign targeting Islamic State.

French President Francois Hollande, left, and US Secretary of State John Kerry, pose upon arrival at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, France, Nov. 17, 2015.

French President Francois Hollande, left, and US Secretary of State John Kerry, pose upon arrival at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, France, Nov. 17, 2015.

They will discuss U.S. efforts to assist in the investigation of the attacks and further cooperation among the U.S.-led, anti-IS coalition, the White House said, adding, "This visit will underscore the friendship and solidarity between the United States and France, our oldest ally."

"We are absolutely committed to increasing our efforts in every degree possible, and thoughtfully, carefully," Kerry said.

"My sense is that everybody understands that with Lebanon's attacks, with what's happened in Egypt, with Ankara, Turkey, with the attacks now in Paris, we have to step up our efforts to hit them at the core where they are planning these things, and also obviously to do more on borders and in terms of the movement of people," he added.

Diverted flights

Air France confirmed two of its flights from the U.S. to Paris were diverted and landed safely late Tuesday after being the subjects of anonymous threats.

The airline did not describe the specific threats, which came in after the planes took off, but said it decided to have them land "as a precautionary measure and to conduct all security checks."

One flight from Los Angeles landed in Salt Lake City, Utah, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation said in a statement that authorities found no credible threat. The other flight, which took off from Washington, was diverted to Halifax, Canada.

Chris Hannas contributed to this report from Washington.

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