, PARIS, France, Nov 19 – The fate of the suspected mastermind of the Paris attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, was still unknown Thursday after a huge police raid left at least two dead, as it emerged the US warned months ago he could be planning an assault.
Police staged a ferocious seven-hour assault in the north of Paris on Wednesday after intelligence led investigators to an apartment where the Belgian suspected of orchestrating the worst ever militant attack on French soil was thought to be hiding.
At least two people were killed in the raid – a woman thought to have blown herself up with a suicide vest and another body that was found riddled with bullets – according to Paris prosecutor Francois Molins.
Eight people were arrested, but neither Abaaoud nor 26-year-old Salah Abdeslam – suspected of taking part with his suicide-bomber brother Brahim in the attacks last Friday that killed 129 people – were among those held.
French lawmakers will on Thursday begin debating whether to extend the state of emergency declared after last week’s attacks by three months to February, and expand it to allow suspects to be placed under house arrest.
Molins said the raid had thwarted a “team of terrorists that… could have struck”.
Police rained more than 5,000 rounds of ammunition on the building after terrified residents living in the area near the Stade de France stadium were evacuated.
A series of explosions rang out as the police closed in on the dwelling and one suspect was seen being dragged away, his bare buttocks exposed.
A new team of terrorists was neutralised and all indications are that given their arms, their organisational structure and their determination, the commando could have struck
Severe damage to the building and the state of the bodies found inside made it impossible to know exactly how many people had been killed and who they were, the prosecutor said.
“I am not able to give you a precise number and identity of those killed. There are at least two dead and verifications will likely take longer than expected,” Molins added.
“A new team of terrorists was neutralised and all indications are that given their arms, their organisational structure and their determination, the commando could have struck.”
– US warning –
As details were still emerging of the shootout, US intelligence published a report showing it warned in May that IS was capable of carrying out the kind of large-scale, coordinated attacks seen in Paris.