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2 Dead, 8 Arrested In Raid Targeting Paris Attack Mastermind

SAINT-DENIS, France (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Amid gunfire and explosions, police raided an apartment near Paris where the suspected mastermind of last week's attacks was believed to be holed up Wednesday.

The siege ended with two deaths and eight arrests but no clear information on his fate.

As CBS2's Dick Brennan reported, 5,000 rounds were fired in a shootout that lasted over an hour and had terrified neighbors in the Paris suburb of St. Denis frozen with fear.

"Really, we could see the bullets; the light of the laser pointing our way," a witness said through an interpreter. "Really, it was the explosions. We could feel the building really shaking."

Prosecutor François Molins said the raid in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis was launched after information from tapped telephone conversations, surveillance and witness accounts indicated that the suspected planner of the attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, might be in a safe house in the district.

Authorities could not immediately confirm whether Abaaoud, a Belgian Islamic State militant who was originally thought to be in Syria, was killed or arrested Wednesday morning.

The bodies of those who died Wednesday morning were not intact, and investigators must do DNA tests.

Investigators have identified 27-year-old Abaaoud, a Belgian of Moroccan descent, as the chief architect of Friday's attacks in Paris, which killed 129 people and injured 350 others. A U.S. official briefed on intelligence matters said Abaaoud was a key figure in an Islamic State external operations cell that U.S. intelligence agencies have been tracking for many months.

WEB EXTRAS: Attacks Timeline | Photos | Videos | CBSN |Continuing Coverage

Speaking at the scene of Wednesday's raid, Molins said the seven-hour operation began with a pre-dawn shootout and resulted in the capture of three people inside the apartment, the death of a woman who blew herself up with an explosive vest, and the death of "another terrorist --- who was hit by projectiles and grenades.''

He said two people were detained while trying to hide in the rubble, and two others were also arrested, including the man who had provided the apartment and one of his acquaintances. Police at the scene were seen escorting away one man who was naked from the waist down, and another wrapped in a gold emergency blanket.

Molins said as of late Wednesday, seven men and one woman were being investigated.

A police dog was killed and several officers injured in the operation.

Sources tell CNN police moved in just in time because the group was going to launch another attack, CBS2's Andrea Grymes reported.

The alleged owner of the apartment claims he had no idea the people staying there were terrorists, Grymes reported. He said he was hosting two people for a few days as a favor and didn't know where they came from.

Molins and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve did not specify whether any suspects might still be at large.

Seven attackers died in Friday's attacks, which targeted several bars and restaurants and the Bataclan concert hall, as well as the national stadium. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the carnage.

Police had said before the raids that they were hunting for two fugitives suspected of taking part as well as any accomplices. That would bring the number of attackers to at least nine.

French authorities had previously said that at least eight people were directly involved in the bloodshed: seven who died in the attacks and one, Salah Abdeslam, who got away and slipped across the border to Belgium.

Salah Abdeslam
Salah Abdeslam, 26. (Credit: CBS2)

A Spanish security official said Wednesday that 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 Abdeslam. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of department rules preventing the official from being named.

Officials have told The Associated Press they believe at least one other attacker was involved and they were working to identify and track down that person.

The Paris attacks have galvanized international determination to confront the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq, bringing France, Russia and the United States closer to an alliance.

French President François Hollande praised the bravery of the security services and said that France was "at war.''

"It is the entire country that's been attacked,'' Hollande told a gathering of French mayors. "For what it represents, the fight we are leading to eradicate terrorism. And simply for what we are.''

Across France, police have carried out 414 raids since Friday, making 60 arrests and seizing 75 weapons, including 11 military-style firearms, the Interior Ministry said.

"They're an extraordinary intelligence service," New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said. "Also, under the special rules that the president of the country just put into effect, they suspended in many respects the legalities that we go through, search warrants, etc., which has allowed them to speed up and maximize the number of operations."

Meanwhile in the skies above ISIS's de facto capital in Syria – Raqqa -- French and Russian airstrikes continued Wednesday.

Parliament is expected to vote by the end of the week to extend the state of emergency that granted those powers for three months.

Meanwhile late Wednesday, silent security pictures obtained by the Daily Mail in London provided the first look at the Paris attacks as they happened, second by horrifying second, CBS2's Dick Brennan reported.

The images showed one of the terrorists opening fire outside a restaurant Friday night, as patrons scrambled to take cover. Bullets and glass flew in every direction as people ran for their lives.

At one point, the gunman appeared to be aiming at point-blank range, but the gun misfired and two women escaped death.

France -- and the rest of Europe -- remained on edge five days after the attacks. On Tuesday night, two Air France flights bound for Paris from the U.S. were diverted Tuesday night -- one to Salt Lake City and one to Halifax -- because of anonymous threats received after they had taken off. Both were inspected and cleared to resume their journeys.

In the German city of Hannover, a soccer game between Germany and the Netherlands was canceled at the last minute and the stadium evacuated by police because of a bomb threat.

In Paris, mourners were still crowding makeshift memorials to pay tribute to the victims.

"There's definitely a feeling that things aren't quite the same, and I think it's going to take time," said Elizabeth Hong of Paris.

The aftermath of the attacks has left New Yorkers on edge, and a growing number of 911 calls coming in from people concerned about their surroundings.

Law enforcement officers have been answering more and more calls to 911, about such things as suspicious behaviors and abandoned bags and packages.

A suitcase at the NJ TRANSIT rain station in Linden, New Jersey, prompted a 911 call Tuesday. It turned out to be a false alarm.

Erring on the side of caution is the right way to go, said security expert and former FBI agent Manny Gomez.

"A lot of these things are going to be perhaps just paranoia or hysteria, but we still need the public's eyes and ears and we need people to step up and say, 'Hey, there is something happening here,'" Gomez said

Bratton said not since the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks has there been more concern about security in the city as there is now.

"As we go into this very critical six weeks in New York with our Thanksgiving event, our Christmas tree lighting, all the Christmas activities and the millions upon millions of tourists we expect, we have never been better prepared to deal with all of that. And that's fortunate because there has probably not been a time since 9/11 where there has been so much concern."

Meanwhile, the terror group released a photo of the bomb it says was used to bring down a Russian passenger plane in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula last month. The bomb appears to be made out of a soda can.

The picture was published in the latest issue of the extremist group's English-language magazine.

There were also reports Wednesday that five men from Syria with fraudulent passports were detained in Honduras. They were possibly looking to travel into the United States.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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