About 200 members of the special units of the French police early Wednesday morning (Paris time) swooped on the Parisian banlieue, or suburb, of Saint-Denis – where the Stade de France, one of the sites of Friday’s terrorist attacks, is located – and arrested seven people. Two people were killed.
One of the dead was a young woman who blew herself up with a suicide vest.
No official information was released, but witnesses describe an operation of several hours, accompanied by explosions and heavy gunfire. The police called on people to stay indoors.
Al Jazeera reports that the focus of the operation was Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a 27-year-old Belgian of Moroccan origin, who is suspected as the mastermind of Friday’s attacks that killed 129 people and injured 350.
French Prosecutor Francois Molins told reporters that the operation was a result of a credible tip — in all likelihood, a police informer who resides in the neighborhood — suggesting Abbaaoud was holed up in an apartment in a residential building.
The young woman who killed herself was a relative of Abaaoud. The other suspect was killed by a police grenade after exchanging fire with the officers surrounding the building.
Of the seven detained in the operation, three were in the apartment which was the focus of the raid, and a fourth was the landlord.
Saint-Denis has a mixed population of many different ethnic backgrounds. Many of them are “sans-papiers” (“without papers”), that is, they are either in France illegally or are yet to receive their ID papers, without which they cannot legally work or obtain a driver’s license.