France | A woman wearing an explosive suicide vest blew herself up today as heavily armed police tried to storm a suburban Paris apartment where the suspected mastermind of last week’s attacks was believed to be holed up, police said. They said one man was also killed and five people arrested in the standoff, which began before dawn and was continuing more than four hours later.
One person remained holed up in the apartment. A senior police official said he believed Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian Islamic State militant, was inside the apartment in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis with five other heavily armed people.
The official, who was not authorized to be publicly named according to police rules but is informed routinely about the operation, said scores of police stormed the building and were met with unexpectedly violent resistance.
Another police official not authorized to be publicly named because of police rules said four police officers were injured. No hostages were being held. The Paris prosecutor’s office said SWAT teams arrested three people in the apartment. It said they haven’t been identified yet. Another man and woman were detained near the apartment, the office said in a statement. Residents said an explosion shook the neighborhood at about 4 a.m.
Then there was second big explosion. Then two more explosions. There was an hour of gunfire, said Baptiste Marie, a journalist who lives in the neighborhood. Another witness, Amine Guizani, said he heard the sound of grenades and automatic gunfire. They were shooting for an hour. Nonstop. There were grenades. It was going, stopping. Kalashnikovs. Starting again, Guizani said.
Sporadic bangs and explosions continued, and at 7:30 a.m. at least seven explosions shook the center of Saint- Denis. Reporters at the scene could hear what sounded like grenade blasts from the direction of the standoff. Investigators have identified 27-year-old Abaaoud, a Belgian of Moroccan descent, as the chief architect of attacks in Paris, which killed 129 people and injured 350 others.
In Saint-Denis, police cordoned off the area nearby, including a pedestrian zone lined with shops and 19th-century apartment buildings. Riot police cleared people from the streets, pointing guns at curious residents to move them off the roads. Seven attackers died in Friday’s gun-and-bomb rampage through Paris.
The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the carnage. 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.