A major police operation targeting the alleged mastermind of the Paris attacks in the Parisian suburb of Saint-Denis resulted in eight arrests and two people killed, the top Paris prosecutor said Wednesday.
A man and a woman were killed, Paris Prosecutor François Molins said at a press conference Wednesday discussing the investigation into the Paris attacks. However, Molins added that both their bodies were so badly damaged that officials could not definitively determine their identities.
The woman is believed to have detonated a suicide vest during the raid on her location. Speaking after the raid, French officials said the man was found dead inside the apartment with gun and grenade wounds. Molins said at some point during the raid the third floor of the building collapsed, and the man's body was later found among the rubble, along with a survivor, who was arrested.
Among the eight arrested, there were seven men and one woman. Molins said that officials would not release their identities for the time being, but he did say that a terrorist cell had been "neutralized" in Saint-Denis by the main raid where the bodies were found, as well as another nearby police operation. He added the cell was ready to undertake an operation of some kind, but did not specify what exactly.
Other French officials said after the raid they believed Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant believed to have planned the gruesome attack last week, was inside the apartment in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis with five other heavily armed people.
At his press conference, Molins would only say that Abaaoud as well as the other main Paris attacks suspect still at large, Salah Abdeslam, were not among those taken into custody.
France has been on edge and a massive international police operation has been launched since the deadly attacks in Paris last week killed at least 129 people.
Overnight raids by French police across France resulted in 25 arrests and the seizure of 34 weapons. The new tally was announced Wednesday by the Interior Ministry. In all, French police have carried out 414 raids and made 60 arrests while seizing 75 weapons since Friday. The captured armory includes 11 military-style firearms, 33 rifles and 31 handguns. In addition to dozens of arrests, 118 more people have been placed under house arrest in another of the new powers permitted under France's state of emergency.
The main raid in Saint-Denis was a violent one, catching officials by surprise. Molins said 5,000 rounds of ammunition were expended during it.
Scores of French law enforcement officers from several agencies took part, storming the building and meeting heavy resistance. Five were injured, none seriously, and a police dog was killed.
Residents said a first explosion shook the neighborhood at about 4 a.m. local time (10 p.m. ET,) and the operation was declared over at 11:30 a.m. local time. There were two major explosions during the blast, one apparently being from the female suicide bomber.
A man who says he lives in the apartment raided by French SWAT teams says he let some people stay there as a favor and "didn't know they're terrorists."
Jawad Bendaoud, who was detained during Wednesday's raid on suspects linked to last week's Paris attacks, spoke to BFMTV as he was being led away by police.
Speaking outside the building in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis, he says "I learned it was at my place, and the individuals barricaded themselves in my place ...I didn't know they're terrorists."
He said someone had "asked me to put some people up for two, three days, and I provided this service."
He says "I don't know where they come from ... If I would have known, I wouldn't have let them stay."
Bendaoud's lawyer confirmed the man in the footage was his client, who was sentenced to eight years in prison for killing his best friend in a 2006 fight.
Seven attackers died in Friday's gun-and-bomb rampage through Paris that killed at least 129 people and left over 350 wounded. French President Francois Hollande called it an "act of war" committed by the group.
ISIS again on Wednesday claimed responsibility for the attacks in Paris, vowing in its online English-language magazine to continue its attacks.
The magazine, released Wednesday, included the threat: "The Islamic State will continue to stand firm in the face of their transgressions and retaliate with fire and bloodshed in revenge for the honor of the Prophet (Muhammad) and the multitudes killed and injured in crusader airstrikes."
The magazine also included a claim that the group killed a Chinese and a Norwegian hostage and photographs of the bomb that it said brought down a Russian airliner over Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on Oct. 31.
French authorities had previously said that at least eight people were directly involved in the bloodshed: seven who died in the attacks and one who got away and slipped across the border to Belgium.
However, there have been gaps in officials' public statements, which have never fully disclosed how many attackers took part in the deadly rampage.
On Tuesday, officials told The Associated Press they now believe at least one other attacker was involved and they were working to identify and track down that suspect. Three officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to provide details about the ongoing investigation.
Surveillance video obtained by the AP also indicated that a team of three attackers carried out the shootings at one of the cafes. The video was among evidence authorities used in concluding that at least one other attacker was at large, the French officials indicated.
Molins confirmed Wednesday that there were three men in the car used in attacks on bars and restaurants. It appears there were two other attack teams -- one at the soccer stadium and one at the Bataclan theater -- and officials have identified all but two of the dead attackers.
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