Heavy gunfire broke out early Wednesday as French police conducted a large operation near Paris reportedly targeting high-level terror suspects involved in last weeks Paris attacks.
A leading Belgian jihadist, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who is suspected of being a lynchpin in the terror attacks that killed 129 people in Paris on Friday, was one of several people targeted in the raid in Saint-Denis, a northern suburb of Paris, a spokesperson in the Paris prosecutor’s office told NBC News.
Several explosions could be heard around 7:30 a.m. local time (1:30 a.m. ET), about three hours into the operation. Heavy gunfire was first heard at around 4:30 a.m.
Police were focusing their attention on one building in Saint-Denis and were shining lights inside. Officials warned residents to stay in doors. A helicopter was seen hovering over the scene, shining a spotlight below, as nearby residents peered out windows seeking a glimpse of police action.
Several bursts of gunfire were heard shortly before 6 a.m. local time, but has since subsided. A heavy police presence was observed with officers wearing body armor. Police were waving vehicles away from the scene.
A spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office said the police operation was planned.
Video posted to social media purported to record sounds of heavy, sustained gunfire.
Authorities were searching for two more suspects Tuesday believed to have directly participated in the series of bombings and shootings in Paris Friday that killed at least 129 people. Seven attackers were killed, most in suicide bombings, officials said.
Police had already been looking for known accomplice Salah Abdeslam, 26. French officials told the AP that an analysis of the attacks indicated one additional person directly involved in the onslaught remains unaccounted for.
On Tuesday, two Air France passenger jets leaving from the U.S. for Paris were diverted after bomb threats were phoned in, the airline said.
Both planes landed safely — a flight from the Washington, D.C. area landed at Halifax in Nova Scotia, and a plane from Los Angeles landed at Salt Lake City, Utah, officials said.
Credit to NBC News.
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