Paris: One person was shot dead and a woman suicide bomber blew herself up on Wednesday here as the police mounted a major operation to get the man who masterminded the Paris terror attack, media reports said.
As many as seven deafening blasts shook the Paris suburb of Saint Denis and heavy gunfire broke out at about 4.30 a.m. when the police surrounded an apartment where key suspect Abdelhamid Abaaoud was holed up.
Al Jazeera reported that suspects of the deadly November 13 Paris attacks that left at least 129 people dead were in that apartment. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the Friday night’s horrific attacks.
Christian, a resident of Saint Denis’ rue de la République, told local French channel BFMTV that there was noise of gunfire and police fired shots into an apartment. Later blasts smashed the windows in the flat and a mattress was flung out of the window, The Telegraph reported.
Sources told Al Jazeera that two people were killed and two others were detained in the operation. The report said it was not clear who the victims were. Three police officers were also wounded in the initial shoot-out, the sources said.
A passer-by was killed during gunfire, reported Xinhua, citing BFMTV. The Telegraph reported that a woman suicide bomber blew herself up.
The target of the police operation was Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the key suspect of the terror attacks at six locations in Paris, leaving over 350 injured.
Another suspect, Salah Abdeslam, was also said to be a target in the raid.
Heavily armed special police units and ambulances gathered at the scene as a helicopter hovered over the area.
Al Jazeera described Saint-Denis a relatively poor area, housing many immigrants. It is near the area of the national stadium Stade de France, where suicide bombers had struck on Friday.
Officials said they blocked off a street in the area, as ambulances and fire engines lined the streets.
Egypt’s president Wednesday called for “decisive” and “collective” action against countries supporting “terrorism” in an apparent reference to Turkey and Qatar, who back the Muslim Brotherhood group, which is outlawed in Egypt.
The three countries also support opposing factions in the war-torn Libya.
Addressing a two-day forum on peace in Africa in the southern city of Aswan, Abdel Fattah el-Sissi also said achieving sustainable development in Africa is needed, along with efforts to fight militant groups in Egypt and the Sahel region that stretches across Africa south of the Sahara Desert.
“There should be a decisive response to countries supporting terrorism and a collective response against terrorism, because the terrorist groups will only have the ability to fight if they are provided with financial, military and moral support,” he said.
The gathering in Aswan is attended by the leaders of Niger, Chad, Nigeria and Senegal along with officials from the U.S., Britain and Canada.
The Sahel region is home to al-Qaida and Islamic State group-linked militants. El-Sissi said Egypt could help train forces and provide weapons to countries in the region to fight extremists.
Egypt has for years been battling an Islamic State-led insurgency that intensified after the military overthrew an elected but divisive Muslim Brotherhood President Muhammad Morsi in 2013 amid mass protests against his brief rule.
Militant-related violence in Egypt has been centered on the Sinai Peninsula, as well as in the country’s vast Western Desert, which has witnessed deadly attacks blamed on militants infiltrating from neighboring Libya.
Since Morsi’s ouster, tensions have grown between Egypt and Turkey and Egypt and Qatar. The political party of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which Cairo designated as at terrorist group in 2013.
El-Sissi also said a “comprehensive, political solution would be achieved in the coming months” for the conflict in Libya, which descended into chaos after the 2011 civil war that ousted and killed long-time dictator Moammar Gadhafi. He did not elaborate.
He said that would put an end to a “terrorist hotbed that pushes militants and weapons to (Libya’s) neighboring countries including Egypt.”
El-Sissi apparently was referring to an international summit in Berlin that aims to reach an agreement on actions needed to end the conflict. The conference had been scheduled for October, but it has apparently been postponed.
After the 2011 civil war, Libya split in two, with a weak U.N.-supported administration in Tripoli overseeing the country’s west and a rival government in the east aligned with the Libyan National Army led by Gen. Khalifa Hifter.
Maritime border agreement
El-Sissi’s comments came amid heightened tensions with Turkey after a controversial maritime border agreement it signed last month with Libya’s Tripoli-based government.
Greece, Egypt and Cyprus, which lie between the two geographically, have denounced the deal as being contrary to international law, and Greece expelled the Libyan ambassador last week over the issue.
Hifter has for months been fighting an array of militias allied with the Tripoli authorities to wrestle control of the capital. He is backed by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, as well as France and Russia, while the Tripoli-based government receives aid from Turkey, Qatar and Italy. (VOA)