Paris ‘mastermind’ not arrested in police raid
The operation was aimed at the suspected ISIS mastermind of the attacks, Belgian Abdelhamid Abaaoud
The suspected mastermind of the Paris attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, was not among a number of people arrested in a huge police raid on Wednesday, the city’s prosecutor said.
At least two bodies were found in the apartment in Saint-Denis after the shootout with police, but they have not yet been identified, prosecutor Francois Molins told a press conference.
Monlins also said “commando” of people arrested or killed in a massive police raid in a Paris apartment Wednesday were a terror unit capable of staging a fresh attack.
“A new team of terrorists was neutralized and all indications are that given their arms, their organizational structure and their determination, the commando could have struck,” he added.
He also said police had found a cellphone belonging to one of the gunmen and suicide bombers who staged France’s worst-ever attacks Friday, killing 129 people and injuring over 350.
The phone was found in a dustbin outside the Bataclan music venue, scene of the worst violence, where 89 people were gunned down.
A text message showed one of the gunmen had sent a message saying “we’re ready, let’s go.”
The message was sent at 9:42 pm (2042 GMT), before the attack, Molins said, adding that police were investigating who the message was sent to.
Earlier, a woman died after detonating a bomb at the scene, the prosecutors' office said, adding that three people in the apartment had been arrested and two others were seized nearby. Several police officers were wounded in the raid.
The raid, which started at dawn, ended seven hours after the operation started, but there was still no word at the time on whether the mastermind was caught.
French President Francois Hollande also urged the nation not to “give in to fear” or excessive reactions in the wake of the jihadist attacks on Paris. “No anti-Semitic or anti-Muslim act can be tolerated,” he told a meeting of the nation’s mayors after police carried out the massive assault in Paris.
Around 50 French soldiers had been deployed in the raid. Security forces at the scene were unwilling to talk to members of the media, who had gathered at the site where the pre-dawn raid took place.
Schools and shops were shuttered in the suburb, home to many people of North African descent, as authorities ordered residents to stay at home.
Soufiane Belaribi, a young man of Algerian origin who lives in the suburb, said he had heard explosions while on his way to work in the morning.
“I never imagined they would be hiding here. I didn’t see any suspicious movement in this neighborhood. I have been living here for 12 years,” Belaribi told Al Arabiya News.
Karim Boujima, another resident in the suburb, said: “We heard fire in the morning. We immediately linked it to Friday’s events.
“I was very scared. I never thought France would be living this.
Another Saint-Denis resident said that “we are paying for their doing,” in reference to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which carried out Friday’s attacks.
“I never thought they would be hiding here. Life was normal,” said the resident, who gave only his first name, Lahouari.
“This is sad for us because we are not [thought of] well in comparison with the rest of French society… It is bad. We are not scared for us, we are scared for our children and wives.”
The area is home to the Stade de France, one of several places hit by gunmen and suicide bombers on Friday in the worst ever attack on French soil, which was claimed by the militant group.
French prosecutors have identified five of the seven dead assailants from Friday - four Frenchmen and a man who was fingerprinted in Greece last month after arriving in the country via Turkey with a boatload of refugees fleeing the Syria war.
Police believe two men directly involved in the assault subsequently escaped, including Salah Abdeslam, 26, a Belgian-based Frenchman who is believed to have played a central role in both planning and executing the deadly mission.
Until Wednesday morning, officials had said Abaaoud was in Syria. He grew up in Brussels, but media said he moved to Syria in 2014 to fight with Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Since then he has travelled back to Europe at least once and was involved in a series of planned attacks in Belgium foiled by the police last January.
[With AFP and Reuters]
- Video confirms ninth assailant in Paris attacks
- GCC foreign ministers condemn Paris attacks
- Man arrested for anti-Islamic threat in U.S.
- Air France flights diverted after ‘bomb threats’
- Video confirms existence of ninth attacker in Paris
- Why is a Belgian - Moroccan suburb linked to the Paris attacks?
- How Paris bomber sneaked into France posing as Syrian refugee
- Belgium postpones friendly against Spain for security reasons