Paris mastermind reportedly killed in predawn raid

Paris mastermind reportedly killed in predawn raid
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Them suspected mastermind of Friday evening’s terror campaign across Paris was reportedly killed in an early morning raid on an apartment in a northern suburb of the French capital on Wednesday.

François Molins, the Paris public prosecutor, said he could not confirm The Washington Post report and that the body of one of two people killed in the seven-hour siege has yet to be identified.

If confirmed, however, the death of Abdelhamid Abaaoud would be a major coup for French law enforcement officials, who have conducted a manhunt in the days following Friday's attacks, which killed 129 people across the city and wounded scores more.

“The state of the body does not allow for identification,” Molins said at a Wednesday news conference hours after the raid in Saint-Denis.

“It’s difficult to investigate inside of the building, and at this point in time I cannot give you a precise update on the actual … [identification] of the people that are dead,” he added, saying the apartment building was on the verge of collapse after the seven-hour siege.

According to the Post, two senior intelligence officials have claimed that the dead man was Abaaoud, the Belgian national who had traveled to Syria and was said to be the architect of the Paris attacks.

The raid began shortly after 4 a.m. and involved more than 100 French officers equipped with grenades and sniper rifles. More than 5,000 shots were fired, Molins said.

One of the two people killed was a woman who triggered a suicide bomb as police entered the apartment, killing herself. Media reports identified the woman as Hasna Aitboulahcen, a 26-year-old cousin of Abaaoud's.

In addition to the two people killed, eight were arrested, Molins said. None of them were Abaaoud or Salah Abdelsalam, a 26-year-old whose brother was reportedly killed during Friday's violence and whose disappearance has put Europe on edge.

Abaaoud appeared to have been the target of Wednesday’s raid, following intelligence suggesting that he was holed up in the third-floor apartment of the suburban building.

Officials feared the possibility of another attack, according to reports, and Wednesday morning’s raid appeared designed to scuttle any potential plots.

“It was a very difficult raid,” Molins said on Wednesday. The door had been barred from the inside, giving the suspects inside time “to prepare their response.”

Investigators got another potential break with the discovery of a cellphone in a garbage can outside of the Bataclan concert venue, the scene of dozens of gruesome killings on Friday.

A text message on that phone indicated that it was connected to the militants responsible for the attacks, Molins said, though it was unclear how the phone’s discovery related to Wednesday morning’s raid. Investigators are seeking to uncover the recipient of the text message.

Wednesday morning’s siege came after days of raids across France that rounded up dozens of suspected extremists at hundreds of sites.

Updated at 2 p.m.