One of the suspected ringleaders of the Paris attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, was killed on Wednesday during a predawn raid by French police commandos who were following leads that the fugitive militant was plotting another wave of violence in Paris.
Over 100 police officers and soldiers stormed an apartment building in the northern suburb of Saint-Denis during a 7-hour siege, leaving two dead.
Abaaoud, a Belgian extremist, had once boasted that he could slip easily between Europe and strongholds of the Islamic State militant group in Syria.
Paris prosecutor François Molins, speaking to reporters hours after the siege, said he could not provide the identities of the people killed at the scene. A French security official declined to confirm or deny that Abaaoud had died.
But two senior European officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, said they received confirmation from the French that Abaaoud was slain in the raid.
It was not immediately clear how Abaaoud died — whether in police gunfire, by his own hand or in a suicide blast triggered by a woman in the apartment.
After the raid, forsenics experts combed through the aftermath — blown-out windows, floors collapsed by explosions — presumably seeking DNA and other evidence.
Molins said a discarded cellphone helped identify safe houses used by attackers to plan Friday’s coordinated assaults, which killed 129 people and wounded more than 350 across Paris.
Molins said police launched the raid because they believed that Abaaoud was “entrenched” on the third floor of the apartment building. He said that neither Abaaoud nor another wanted suspect, Salah Abdeslam, was among eight people who were arrested at the apartment and other locations on Wednesday. Three people were arrested in the raid on the apartment, he said, one of whom had a gunshot wound in the arm.
Molins said the safe houses indicated “a huge logistics plan, meticulously carried out.”