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Paris attacks main suspect 'could be dead'

November 19, 2015

French authorities have continued efforts overnight to determine whether Abdelhamid Abaaoud was among those killed in an anti-terrorist raid in Saint-Denis. He is thought to be the mastermind behind the Paris attacks.

Abdelhamid Abaaoud holding an 'Islamic State' flag
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Dabiq

Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said on Wednesday that telephone surveillance and witnesses of the siege had led police to believe that the prime suspect was among the dead.

The Belgian of Moroccan descent had previously boasted in "Islamic State" (IS) propaganda that he could travel undetected between Europe and Syria.

Police launched the seven-hour operation in northern Paris in the early hours of Wednesday morning. The raid left two people dead, including a woman, who police say blew herself up, and a man hit by projectiles and grenades. Seven people were also arrested, none of whom were Abaaoud.

Authorities suspect that the group was organizing a second attack, similar to those in Paris last Friday, in which 129 people were killed and more than 350 injured.

'Big breakthrough'

Following much media speculation that Abaaoud had either been shot or had committed suicide, Molins urged the press to give the authorities time to properly carry out their investigation.

Belgian Justice Minister Koen Geens reiterated Molin's statements later on Wednesday, saying that he too couldn't confirm Abaaoud was among those killed in a raid.

The Belgian minister described the anti-terroist raid a "big breakthrough," however, as it showed that law enforcement officials "can track down suspects."

France 'at war'

French President Francois Hollande said on Wednesday that France was "at war" with IS and praised the efforts of France's security services in the wake of last Friday's terrorist attacks.

Infografik Europäische Dschihadisten - Rückkehrer aus Syrien+ Irak ENGLISCH

"It is the entire country that's been attacked," Hollande told a gathering of French mayors. "For what it represents, the fight we are leading to eradicate terrorism. And simply for what we are."

In his televised remarks, Hollande urged the nation not to "give in to fear" or extremist sentiments.

"No anti-Semitic or anti-Muslim act can be tolerated," Hollande said.

ksb/bw (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)