SAINT-DENIS, France — A female suicide bomber blew herself up on Tuesday as French police conducted a pre-dawn raid on an apartment building in an operation to locate the mastermind associated with Friday’s massacre in Paris.
Police closed in on an apartment building in Saint-Denis, a suburb of Paris, and according to reports, a woman detonated a suicide vest after confronting authorities. Residents report hearing gunfire and explosions at 4:30 and 7:30 a.m. local time.
“I awoke to an explosion,” a woman who lives below the flat told local television station BMF-TV. “After that I heard gun shots and there was lots of shooting. The terrorists were fighting at the police and the police were firing back.”
“There were shots, explosions. We didn’t know where to go. My son and I were in panic,” she continued. “There was dust falling from the ceiling because of the explosions. I kept shouting, ‘If you’re from the police, please help me. I’m here with my baby.’ But they kept shooting and shooting.”
In addition to the woman who took her life as police stormed the building, an unnamed male terrorist was killed by what is stated to be “a combination of gunfire and the detonation of a grenade.”
Seven were arrested during the overnight raid, which was focused on apprehending Abdelhamid Abaaoud, 28, who is believed to be the mastermind behind the Paris attacks. Officials originally thought he was in Syria, but now suspect that he may have been in the area all along. Authorities have not yet stated whether or not Abaaoud was apprehended in the operation.
“A lot of work was done as part of this investigation, which made it possible to obtain, through phone records, surveillances and testimony, elements that could have suggested that the man named Abaaoud was potentially in an apartment used for plotting in St.-Denis,” prosecutor Francois Molins told the New York Times at the conclusion of the raid.
“It is impossible to tell you who was arrested,” he said. “We are in the process of verifying that. Everything will be done to determine who is who.”
Terrorists shot and killed a police dog named Deisel that sniffed out the area for explosives. An estimated 110 police officers were involved in the pre-dawn raid, which some believe additionally thwarted a planned attack on La Defense, the business district in Paris.
“These acts once more confirm that we are at war, at war with terrorism which itself has waged war with us,” French President Francois Hollande reiterated on Tuesday. “France will remain a country of movement.”