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Three Arrested, Two Dead As French Police Raid Targets Alleged Mastermind


French police stop and search a local resident in the northern Paris suburb of Saint-Denis on November 18 during the operation said to be targeting the mastermind of the Paris terror attacks.

French antiterrorist police are raiding an apartment in a northern Paris suburb in an operation linked to last week's terror attacks.

Explosions and gunfire were heard in the Saint Denis district during the operation, which began before dawn November 18.

Police sources say Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the alleged mastermind of last week's attacks, is the focus of the raid.

Three suspects were reportedly arrested and two others killed, including a woman who blew herself up with a suicide belt. Several police officers were also wounded.

Islamic State militants say they carried out the November 13 attacks in Paris that killed 129 people and wounded more than 350.

Abdeslam Salah (left) and Abdelhamid Abaaoud
Abdeslam Salah (left) and Abdelhamid Abaaoud

Authorities have said that at least eight people were directly involved in the November 13 attacks that killed 129 people and wounded more than 350.

That included six who detonated suicide vests, one who died in a police shootout.

Officials now say surveillance video shows a possible ninth assailant.

Islamic State militants say they carried out the attacks.

As the European dragnet widened for those complicit in the November 13 attacks, France and Russia on November 17 unleashed a new wave of air strikes against targets in Syria.

On the night of the attack, French police failed to capture Belgian Salah Abdeslam, believed to have played a central role in both planning and executing the event, despite having stopped the car in which he was riding three times during a massive manhunt, Xavier Carette, the driver's lawyer, said.

Police apparently had no idea the passenger in the car would later be identified as having been linked to the attacks.

Speaking to Belgian broadcaster RTBF, Carette said his client, Mohammed Amri, suspected nothing when his friend Abdeslam, 26, called two hours after the attacks for a ride to Brussels and said his car had broken down. Amri is in police custody; Abdeslam remains at large.

"You know, when you're on a car journey, you can talk about everything and nothing, listen to music, even smoke a joint, but at no time, no, they didn't talk about that," Carette said of the massacre.

On November 17, 10 French fighter jets attacked Islamic State targets in Syria in a new wave of air strikes, Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said. Speaking on TF1 TV, he said 36 French warplanes will be in the region once the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier reaches the eastern Mediterranean later this week.

Long-Range Russian Bombers Strike

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the missile cruiser Moskva, currently in the Mediterranean, to start cooperating with the French military on operations in Syria.

His order came as Russian long-range bombers fired cruise missiles on militant positions in Syria's Idlib and Aleppo provinces. IS militants have positions in Aleppo Province, while the Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra militant group is in Idlib.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu attend a meeting on Russian Air Force activity in Syria at the National Defense Control Center in Moscow on November 17.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu attend a meeting on Russian Air Force activity in Syria at the National Defense Control Center in Moscow on November 17.

Moscow has vowed to hunt down those responsible for blowing up a Russian passenger plane over Egypt on October 31, killing 224 people, mostly Russian tourists. Islamic State militants have also claimed responsibility.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with French President Francois Hollande and Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. Standing next to Hollande at the Elysee Palace on November 17, Kerry said the carnage in Paris, along with attacks in Lebanon and Turkey, made it clear that more pressure must be brought to bear on extremists.

He said a cease-fire between Syria's government and the opposition could be just weeks away, describing it as potentially a "gigantic step" toward deeper international cooperation.

France also reached out to its European Union partners for help, invoking a never-before-used treaty article obliging members of the 28-nation bloc to help a member state that is victim to armed aggression.

"Every country said: I am going to assist, I am going to help," said Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French defense minister.

In the German city of Hannover, an exhibition soccer game between Germany and the Netherlands was canceled at the last minute and the stadium evacuated by police because of a bomb threat.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and other officials had been scheduled to attend the game as a sign of defiance.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, and dpa

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