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Paris attacks: two suspects killed in dawn raid

Residents in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis are evacuated during the raid. Picture by Press Association

A WOMAN wearing a suicide vest was among two people suspected of involvement in the Paris attacks who were killed during a raid in a suburb of the French capital, police said. 

The woman detonated the explosives as scores of officers raided a property in the northern suburb of Saint-Denis, officials said.

A man was also killed and five people have been arrested in the raid.

A massive police operation is targeting Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected mastermind of last week's attacks, a senior French police source said. 

A US official said Abaaoud was a key figure in an Islamic State external operations cell that US intelligence agencies have been tracking for months.

The official said authorities believe Abaaoud is hiding in an apartment, along with up to five other heavily armed people.

Scores of police who stormed the building early today were met with unexpectedly violent resistance. Reinforcements were summoned and four officers were injured.

Meanwhile, French authorities have sent out a bulletin to police across Europe asking them to watch out for a Citroen Xsara car that could be carrying Salah Abdeslam, the fugitive wanted in the Paris attacks, a Spanish security official said.

Spain's El Espanol digital publication first reported the bulletin on Wednesday, publishing a document with the car's description and naming Abdeslam. It was sent by Spanish authorities to border control police in the north-eastern Catalonia region next to France.

The security official confirmed the document was authentic but said the bulletin was sent to authorities across Europe and not only to Spain.

Swat teams launched a pre-dawn raid in the Saint-Denis area and the deputy mayor told French television it was not a "new attack".

At least seven explosions were heard at the scene of the stand-off. No hostages were held.

Reports suggested several suspects were hiding in an apartment building and police blocked off the area around Place Jean Jaures.

Authorities were searching for extremists suspected of taking part in last Friday's attacks which killed at least 129 people in the French capital.

News of a second unidentified terrorist thought to be directly involved in the Paris atrocity emerged after CCTV indicated there were three extremists involved in the attack on a bar in the city.

It would take the total number of known attackers to nine, with seven dead and another, gunman Salah Abdeslam, the subject of an international manhunt.

Authorities in Saint-Denis earlier evacuated residents from the apartment building where the suspects were holed up.

The building is in rue du Cornillon, in the heart of the historic multicultural area north of the city centre.

The site is about a mile from the Stade de France national stadium, where three suicide bombers blew themselves up on Friday during a football friendly with President Francois Hollande in attendance.

Residents said an explosion shook the neighbourhood at about 4am local time.

"Then there was second big explosion. Then two more explosions. There was an hour of gunfire," said Baptiste Marie, a 26-year-old independent journalist who lives in the neighbourhood.

Another witness, Amine Guizani, said he heard the sound of grenades and automatic gunfire.

"They were shooting for an hour. Non-stop. There were grenades. It was going, stopping. Kalashnikovs. Starting again," Mr Guizani said.

Saint-Denis mayor Didier Paillard said public transport was suspended and schools in the centre of town would not open on Wednesday.

Overnight raids by police across France resulted in 25 arrests and the seizure of 34 weapons, the interior ministry said.

The arrests are the latest in a nationwide police operation that has seen nightly raids by security forces under powers granted by the state of emergency declared after last week's attacks.

In all, French police have carried out 414 raids and made 60 arrests while seizing 75 weapons since Friday. The captured armoury includes 11 military style firearms, 33 rifles and 31 handguns. In addition to dozens of arrests, 118 more people have been placed under house arrest in another of the new powers permitted under France's state of emergency.

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