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Paris assault: Woman blows herself up, man killed

French authorities launched a massive police assault in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis on Wednesday (Nov 18), targeting the suspected mastermind of last week’s attacks in the capital.

Gunfire and explosions rocked the area in the wee hours of the morning as terrified residents were evacuated or told to stay in their homes.

A woman blew herself up and a suspected jihadist was killed during the operation, which turned into a seven-hour stand-off between security forces and a group of people holed up in an apartment.

Seven people were arrested, while five police officers suffered minor injuries.

Mastermind: Dead or alive?

Gunfire first rang out at around 4am in the streets.

Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said telephone surveillance and witness reports "led us to believe" that Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected mastermind of Friday's attacks which killed 129 people, had been in the apartment.

Mr Molins said it was too early to say if Abaaoud was among those arrested or killed.

Abaaoud is a fighter for Sunni militant group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). He was previously thought to be in Syria after fleeing raids in his native Belgium earlier this year.

Residents, some of whom were evacuated in their underwear, said they had been caught in a terrifying exchange of fire.

Ms Hayat, 26, had been leaving a friend’s apartment where she had spent the night when the shots erupted.

"I heard gunfire," she said. "I could have been hit by a bullet. I never thought terrorists could have hid here."

Air strikes in Syria

As police stepped up the hunt for the fugitives, French and Russian jets pounded ISIS targets in the group’s Syrian stronghold of Raqa for a third consecutive day.

A monitoring group said the French and Russian air strikes had killed at least 33 ISIS jihadists in the last 72 hours.

France and Russia have vowed merciless retaliation for the Paris attacks and last month’s bombing of a Russian airliner over the Egyptian Sinai peninsula which killed 229 people and was also claimed by ISIS.

More bomb threats

In a sign of the nervousness gripping Europe after Friday’s carnage, a football match between Germany and the Netherlands in Hanover was cancelled on Tuesday (Nov 17) and the crowd evacuated after police acted on a "serious" bomb threat.

Two Air France flights bound for Paris from the United States were diverted on Tuesday and landed safely after anonymous threats that the carrier described as a "bomb scare".

The body representing Muslims in France said it would ask all 2,500 mosques in the country to condemn "all forms of violence or terrorism" in prayers this Friday.

The message will condemn such acts "unambiguously", the French Muslim Council said.

Source: AFP

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