Paris terror attacks: Heavy gunfire erupts as French police seek suspects in raid

THE suspected mastermind of last week’s Paris attacks has been killed in a blitz-style raid, according to two senior intelligence officials.

Washington Post reports Islamic State Abdelhamid Abaaoud was killed overnight after more than 100 police and soldiers stormed a building in Saint-Denis during a seven-hour siege that left two dead.

During the siege, a woman suicide bomber blew herself up and another militant died.

Investigators raided the building following reports the fugitive was hiding out north of the capital and possibly plotting another attack.

“The police forces were looking for terrorists who were preparing another attack on the basis of information from the (local) counter-terrorism services and overseas,” a source close to the investigation told Reuters. “This new team was planning an attack on La Defense.”

The French interior ministry declined to confirm or deny the information.

Officials said police had been hunting Abaaoud, a Belgian Islamist militant accused of ordering the November 13 attack.

Seven people were arrested in the operation including three people who were pulled from the apartment, officials said.

“It is impossible to tell you who was arrested. We are in the process of verifying that. Everything will be done to determine who is who,” Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said at the end of the operation.

He said the Paris raid was launched after information from tapped telephone conversations, surveillance and witness accounts indicated that Abaaoud might be in a safe house in the district.

A US official briefed on intelligence matters said the 27-year-old was a key figure in an Islamic State external operations cell that US intelligence agencies have been tracking for many months.

Abaaoud was believed to be in Syria after a January police raid in Belgium, but bragged in Islamic State propaganda of his ability to move back and forth between Europe and Syria undetected.

Speaking at the scene of Wednesday’s raid, Molins said the operation began with a pre-dawn shootout and resulted in the capture of three people inside the apartment, the death of a woman who set off an explosive charge, and the death of “another terrorist … who was hit by projectiles and grenades” in the initial assault.

He said two people were detained while trying to hide in the rubble, and two others were also arrested, including the man who had provided the apartment and one of his acquaintances. Police at the scene were seen escorting away one man who was naked from the waist down, and another wrapped in a gold emergency blanket.

“As things stand, it is impossible to give you the identities of the people detained, which are being verified,” Molins said. “All will be done to determine who is who, and based on the work of forensic police, we’ll tell you who was in the apartment — and what consequences it will have for the development of the investigation.”

‘Terror threat’ shuts down Copenhagen airport

Terminal 3 of Copenhagen Airport and the airport’s train station were evacuated overnight due to a terror alert sparked by a suspicious bag.

Armed officers were called to the airport, the main arrival and departure terminal for the Nordic region’s hub, along with bomb experts to investigate the possible threat. Commuter train and subway lines to the airport also were halted.

Danish police revealed on Twitter that the evacuation was triggered by “an overheard conversation about a bomb.”

The terminal and station was shut down for about an hour while police investigated. It has since reopened, withdelays expected.

Turkey kills ‘IS militant’ on Syria border, detains 21

Turkish security forces killed one suspected Islamic State militant seeking to cross into Turkey from Syria and arrested 21 others, the army said.

The suspected IS militant killed on Tuesday was part of a group seeking to illegally cross the border neighbouring the Kilis region of southern Turkey, the army said in a statement.

“Twenty-one people, including nine children, were detained,” it added, giving no further details or the nationality of those arrested.

The incident comes as Turkey seeks to step up efforts to crack down on IS jihadists crossing its border, amid signs Ankara is taking the security threat posed by the group increasingly seriously.

France, Paris strikes IS in Syria

French fighter jets attacked Islamic State targets in Syria for a third night. The French defence ministry said 10 jets had hit two Islamic State command centres in the militants’ base of Raqqa, Syria.

Hollande said French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle had left to support military operations against IS in Syria. He called for a “large coalition” against IS militants to destroy a group that threatens the whole world and “commits massacres” in the Middle East.

The Paris attacks have galvanised international determination to confront the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq, bringing France, Russia and the United States closer to an alliance.

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the missile cruiser Moskva, currently in the Mediterranean, to start co-operating with the French military on operations in Syria.

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