Paris suicide bomber blows herself up as police storm suburb in hunt for mastermind

PARIS — A Paris suburb was transformed into a war zone early Wednesday morning as heavily armed French police supported by truckloads of soldiers‎ raided an apartment housing suspects believed to be tied to Friday’s terror attacks.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told reporters that two people were killed in the assault, including a woman who blew herself up. The second casualty was a man hit by projectiles and grenades at the end of the raid.

Reuters reported that the suspects were planning an attack in La Defense, a financial district just outside Paris. A police source also told CNN that the suspects were “about to move on some kind of operation,” adding the operation was “right on time.”

AP Photo / Francois MoriAP Photo / Francois MoriPolice forces operate in Saint-Denis, a northern suburb of Paris, Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015. Police say two suspects in last week's Paris attacks, a man and a woman, have been killed in a police operation north of the capital.

Residents described being jolted from their sleep by the sound of gunshots that they at first mistook for firecrackers.

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The French prosecution office originally announced that a woman inside the targeted apartment in the Saint-Denis neighbourhood detonated an explosive vest shortly after the raid began at 4:20 a.m., Paris time and was killed.

The prosecutor later backed away from his office’s statement that the woman had died after setting off an explosive vest.

At the news conference, Francois Molins explained that “this point needs to be verified by an analysis of the body and human remains as well as by all the forensic police operations that have to be carried out.”

According to the prosecution office, three men who were holed up in the apartment were taken into custody by members of ’s elite tactical‎ squad, RAID. Another man and a woman close to the apartment were also detained.

French media reported that police were hunting for Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a 28-year-old Belgian ISIL member who is believed to have planned Friday’s attacks, which killed 129 people.

Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said the 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.

There was no immediate confirmation Wednesday morning whether he was among the dead or arrested.

“As things stand, it is impossible to give you the identities of the people detained, which are being verified,” Molins said.

A 7-year-old Belgian Malinois police dog named Diesel that was employed in the raid “was killed by the terrorists,” French national police announced on Twitter.

[INFO] Diesel, malinois de 7 ans, chienne d'assaut du #RAID a

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