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Two Dead In French Police Blitz Aimed At Paris Terror Mastermind

FRENCH POLICE LAUNCH BLITZ, TWO DEAD

Photo: Ying Qiang/Xinhua/ZUMA

At least two suspected terrorists died and seven others were arrested in a large-scale French police operation early Wednesday in the rugged Paris suburb of Saint-Denis. The location of the raid is not far from the Stade de France stadium where three jihadists blew themselves up Friday night while gunmen went on a killing spree in central Paris in the coordinated ISIS attacks that left 129 dead. The alleged mastermind of Friday's massacre is believed to have been the target of the morning blitz, though it is not clear if he was among those killed or arrested.

  • The elite police's assault started in the early hours of Wednesday, and appeared to have ended shortly after noon local time, with reports of detonations and heavy gunfire between 4.20am and 7.30am, as they continued to hunt suspected terrorists involved in last Friday's attacks. Locals interviewed by reporters spoke of a "war-like" situation that lasted nearly seven hours.
  • The assault focused on a flat, located in the city center of Saint-Denis, near its famous basilica. Two terrorists died in the operation, according to Le Monde: one of them was a woman who detonated a suicide bomb at the beginning of the raid, the second was reportedly killed by a sniper. Of the seven people who were arrested, three were "extracted" from the flat during the operation, two others were arrested outside the building, including a young man who said he was renting his flat to the people holed up in it. Speaking to BFMTV before the police took him away, he said "a friend" had asked him to host people from Belgium for three nights. "I didn't know they were terrorists," he said. There's been no information so far about the others' identities. Five police officers were wounded in the operation and a police dog was killed.
  • The target of the police raid was reported to be Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the Belgian jihadist suspected to be the mastermind of Friday's attacks, previously believed to be in Syria or Iraq. His presence in Paris, if confirmed, would raise serious questions about Europe's lack of border controls. Abaaoud is believed to have organized many foiled attacks, including the one on the Amsterdam-Paris Thalys train in August.
  • Unconfirmed reports say that Salah Abdeslam, who's believed to have taken part in planning Friday's attacks, was also believed to be in the flat. Abdeslam's last known location was the Belgian town of Molenbeek, near Brussels, where he drove from Paris on Saturday morning. It emerged his car was stopped three times during that journey, but he was never arrested despite having already being connected to the attacks by the police.
  • More questions are being raised about the lack of preparation prior to Friday's attacks. According to France 24, Paris police failed to pass on a note to the country's internal intelligence agency about a group of terrorists planning major attacks just 10 days before Friday.
  • The people holed up in the flat were reportedly planning another attack, this time on Paris' business district of La Défense, Reuters reported citing a source close to the investigation.
  • Still according to Reuters, the terrorist who blew himself up at the Stade de France stadium and who travelled from Syria posing as a Syrian migrant is believed to have had an accomplice as he travelled through the Balkans. The agency also reports that this man possibly reached Paris earlier than planned, benefitting from the fact that European countries rushed migrants across borders to avoid bottlenecks, after Hungary closed its borders to keep potential terrorists out. A Daily Mail report, claiming that up to eight people crossed into the EU using the same identity as the terrorist, also points to major security failures on the bloc's external borders and shows the scale on which fake Syrian passports are being used.
  • The authorities meanwhile have announced that they had identified all 129 victims of Friday's massacres.
  • Le Monde reports on the "double fear" that French Muslims live with in the wake of the attacks carried out in the name of Islam. It all may backfire for ISIS. Read the story in English in Worldcrunch — and all the coverage on the French terror here.

FRENCH AND RUSSIAN STRIKES AGAINST ISIS

The latest wave of French and Russian strikes in northern Syria have killed at least 33 ISIS militants in the last 72 hours, wounding dozens more, as well as destroying weapons depots and barracks, AFP reports, citing the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. According to the monitoring group, the relatively small number of victims can be explained by "precautions" taken by the jihadists, though the damage to their infrastructures is extensive. Russian President Vladimir Putin meanwhile announced he had set up a commission to combat terrorism financing, a move that comes one day after the Kremlin confirmed that a bomb had brought down the Russian aircraft that crashed in the Sinai, in Egypt, two-and-a-half weeks ago.


GERMANY ALSO ON ALERT

Germany is also on high alert according to Deutsche Welle, after a friendly soccer game between Germany and the Netherlands due to take place in Hanover last night was canceled after what Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said was a "concrete threat" of a bomb in the stadium. Security teams found no explosives. According to Der Spiegel, the German authorities were alerted by the French intelligence services about possible attacks. Speaking to state broadcaster ARD, Hans Georg Maassen, the head of Germany's internal intelligence service, said that the country was an ISIS-target "just like every other Western country" and warned that it would try and commit attacks in Germany.

  • Munich-based Süddeutsche Zeitung writes about the tensions in Germany between the terror threat and the ongoing refugee crisis.
  • Turkish police have arrested 8 people from Morocco it believes are ISIS fighters who were planning to travel illegally to Germany, using a similar route as those used by the migrants, AFP reports.
  • Turkish soccer supporters attending yesterday's game between Turkey and Greece booed a minute of silence in honor of the French victims and chanted Allahu Akbar, with German newspaper Die Welt describing the scene as "hideous."

NIGERIA MARKET BOMBING

At least 31 people were killed in the northeastern Nigerian city of Yola after a bomb exploded at a market on Tuesday evening, Vanguard reports. Nobody has so far claimed responsibility for the attack, though the newspaper writes that the explosion "bore all the hallmarks of Boko Haram," the Islamist group whose six-year-long insurgency has provoked the death of at least 17,000 people in its six-year-long insurgency. The deadly blasts come just a few days after Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari, during a visit to Yola, said Boko Haram "are very close to defeat."


WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

She's an Uber driver; he's an old-fashioned cabbie. For Brazil's Folha de S. Paulo, Leandro Machado tells the story of Eunice and Márcio, the four-wheeled star-crossed lovers of São Paulo: "The Uber thing was actually his idea. Márcio, 42, has been a taxi driver for two years. His fiancée, Eunice, 48, works in a bank. She wanted to retire but didn't know what to do afterwards. Earlier in the year, Márcio heard about an app that connects users with private drivers. ‘I didn't even know what Uber was,' he says. Eunice, who had just bought a car, was looking to increase her income. The service seemed perfectly suited to her needs. But that's when the controversy started in São Paulo: Alarmed by the competition, cab drivers protested against Uber. In some cases, Uber drivers were chased and attacked. One of them even was abducted. Some of their cars, black luxury sedans, were damaged in the protests."

Read the full article, Cabbie Weds Uber Driver, A Car-Hire Romeo And Juliet In Brazil .


$15 BILLION

State-owned company China National Nuclear Corp will finance and build two nuclear power plants in Argentina in a deal worth up to $15 billion, in another boost to Beijing's investments in Latin America, despite its slowing economy, AFP reports.


ISRAEL STRIKES GAZA AFTER ROCKET FIRE

The Israeli air force launched airstrikes against two Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, Haaretz reports. This came in response to the firing of a rocket near the border fence, though it was unclear whether the rocket had landed on Israeli soil. No casualties have been reported.


MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD



JONAH LOMU DIES

New Zealand's rugby legend Jonah Lomu died this morning aged 40. He'd been battling a rare kidney disease for years. Read more from The New Zealand Herald.


ON THIS DAY


Your 57-second shot of history, today featuring William Tell — proudly shooting apples off his son's head since 1307 (don't try this at home).


HACKED FINGERPRINTS

If you thought fingerprints were unfakeable, think again. According to The Guardian, a hacker has managed to fake the fingerprints of Germany's Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, using high-definition photographs.

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