Paris attacks: Police in deadly swoop on apartment in northern suburb

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Explosions and heavy gunfire were heard in Paris as armed police searching for suspects from Friday's attacks raided a flat in the suburb of Saint-Denis.

Two people were killed in the raid, including a female suspect who blew herself up with a suicide belt. Seven people have been arrested.

The French government confirmed the seven-hour raid has now ended.

The focus of the raid was the alleged mastermind of Friday's attacks that killed 129 people.

Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a 27-year-old Belgian of Moroccan origin, was originally suspected of organising Friday's attacks from Syria.

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The operation began at 04:20 local time (03.20 GMT) in Saint-Denis, the same district as the Stade de France where suicide attackers detonated bombs on Friday.

French Prosecutor Francois Molins said the operation was a result of intelligence suggesting Abaaoud was in the flat.

Media captionTom Burridge: "There are few people on the streets of Saint Denis this morning"
Image captionArmed police sealed off Saint-Denis
Image captionSome police officers were masked
Image captionAmbulances are at the scene

He said a young woman - who France's BFMTV said was a relative of Abaaoud - detonated her explosives belt soon after the raid began.

Another suspect was killed by grenades and police bullets, Mr Molins said.

Three men were arrested in the apartment, along with four others - including the man who provided the lodging.

He said they were working on identifying the suspects.

Multicultural Saint-Denis: by the BBC's Cagil Kasapoglu

Saint-Denis is a multicultural, multi-religious, multi-ethnic suburb or banlieue. There are Africans, Algerians, Indians, Chinese, Turkish and many more from different backgrounds.

The majority of the population has "sans-papiers" status - meaning they do not yet have a legal status and an ID which would allow them to find a job.

During my visit to Saint-Denis on Tuesday, I heard quite a lot of "us vs. them" when people talked about the "Parisiens" and themselves in the banlieues.

Media captionLocal resident Benson Hoi: "Police were shouting to people to get back to their flats"

As the operation got under way, roads were blocked off around Rue de la Republique in Saint-Denis, by truckloads of soldiers and armed police.

Local residents, who were urged to stay indoors, spoke of hearing continuous gunshots and large explosions.

Amine Guizani told the Associated Press he heard the sounds of grenades and automatic gunfire.

"They were shooting for an hour, non-stop. There were grenades. It was going, stopping, Kalashnikovs, starting again," he said.

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