Paris Attacks Mastermind Wasn't Captured in Police Raid, Prosecutor Says

French police doing DNA testing to establish whether attack architect was killed during the operation.

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French Police officers in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis, November 18, 2015.
French Police officers in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis, November 18, 2015.Credit: AP

Neither of the two suspected ringleaders of Friday's massacre in Paris was among the eight people captured after a massive police raid on a building north of the capital, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said in a press conference on Wednesday night.

He did not rule on the possibility that either Abdelhamid Abaaoud or Salah Abdelslam, the two suspected ringleaders, may have been among the two people killed during the seven-hour siege in Saint Denis.

A spokesman for Interior Ministry Bernard Cazeneuve also said that he did not exclude that a "third terrorist" may have been killed in the raid.

CNN reported that DNA tests were being conducted on body parts found in the ruined building to confirm whether either of the two suspected ringleaders was killed in the raid. The Washington Post earlier quoted European intelligence officers as saying that Abaaoud had died in the raid.

One of the dead was a woman who blew herself up with a suicide belt when the police stormed the building. Belgian state broadcaster RTBF reported that she was a cousin of Abaaoud.

A Belgian counterterrorism official told CNN before the raid that a wiretap conducted by French and Belgian authorities led them to believe Abaaoud's female cousin was in an apartment in Saint-Denis.

Abdeslam and Abaaoud served time in prison together in Belgium in 2011, accrding to a Belgian federal prosecutor.

The raid on the building was carried out by a French commando team using powerful munitions to neutralize suspects. The use of the explosives resulted in the collapse of an entire floor of the building. Investigators searching through the rubble found body parts, sources said.

Five police officers were wounded and a police dog was killed during the Saint Denis operation, police said.

Two associates of Abdelslam, thought to have been one of the ringleaders of the Paris attack, have been detained in Belgium, Molins said. Though their role in the attacks is not yet known, they were thought to have been on their way to pick up Abdelslam when they were arrested.

Not all eight of the people captured during the raid have been identified as yet, Molins said. He added that the door of the apartment was reinforced, making it difficult to break down and allowing the terrorists to prepare their defense. That in turn made the operation extremely difficult, he said.

At least 129 people were killed and some 350 wounded, dozens seriously, in Friday's series of attacks in Paris. At least one other suspect believed closed linked to the Paris attacks remains at large.

According to Molins, the raid was launched after a phone was found outside the Bataclan theatre, where dozens of people were massacred on Friday. The phone had a message sent by the terrorist cell at around 10.30 P.M. saying “we’re starting.” Investigators are still trying to find out who this message was sent to.

Molins said there was reason to believe that the “terrorist cell” targeted in Wednesday's raid were planning another attack given their “weaponry and level of organization.”

In other news connected to the situation in Paris, a police bomb squad destroyed a suspicious package at the Gare du Nord terminal. It was not an explosive device, but the train station was briefly evacuated.

All 129 victims of the Paris attacks have been identified, the French Council of Ministers said on Wednesday. More than 100 bodies have been released to families.

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