Police operation in Saint-Denis, near Paris. (KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
Just days after terrorist attacks in Paris claimed the lives of at least 129 people, police exchanged fire with suspects — including key figure Abdelhamid Abaaoud, according to reports early Wednesday morning.
Around 4:30 a.m. in France, a raid by anti-terror authorities at an apartment in Saint-Denis, a northern suburb of Paris, led to a gun battle during which several officers were wounded. According to Agence-France Presse, the target of the raid was Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian man authorities think has led the Islamic State’s effort to terrorize Europe.
[“He is a barbaric man” — the Belgian who may be behind the Paris attacks]
Heavily armed police clad in military gear moved quickly as the operation progressed. Roads were sealed. Public transportation was cut. Helicopters scanned the streets fro the skies. The Paris police department said officers exchanged gunfire with the suspects, and several police have been injured. The extent of their injuries is unknown. It’s also unclear whether there are injuries among the suspects.
After the gun battle, at around 7:30 a.m., several men remained holed up in the apartment, according to the Associated Press. It’s not yet clear whether any of the men were injured, though at least six large explosions rocked the otherwise quiet street as officers wearing balaclavas swept the street showing photos, presumably of suspects, to pedestrians and journalists.
At around 7:45 a.m., six more explosions — again, not yet explained — were heard as journalists were pushed back from the scene and ambulances swarmed the scene. It was not clear whether the explosions were controlled detonations.
If Abaaoud was among those holed up in the apartment, the stakes were high. Authorities called Abaaoud, a 28-year-old of Moroccan descent who recruited his 13-year-old brother to fight for the Islamic State, a “guru” behind the massacre that unfolded at a stadium, concert hall and bars and restaurants in Paris on Friday, killing 129 people and wounding more than 300. He’s also reportedly recruited for the Islamic State in the Molenbeek neighborhood of Brussels, a largely Muslim area that has become one of the world’s main breeding grounds of violent Islamist extremists.
[The Belgian neighborhood indelibly linked to jihad]
Abaaoud reputation as an Islamic State is well-known.
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