French police have launched a raid in Saint-Denis, a suburb of Paris, in an operation to track down suspects of Friday’s deadly attacks in the capital.
Suspects were holed up in an apartment in the northern suburb early on Wednesday after shooting broke out during the raid by heavily armed police investigating the Paris attacks, police sources said.
Residents of the area in northern Paris first reported hearing bursts of gunfire at 4:30am (3:30 GMT), as police exchanged fire with one or more suspects.
After a short lull in the operation, at least seven explosions were heard at 6:30 GMT, Al Jazeera’s Jacky Rowland reported from the scene.
Sources told Al Jazeera that two people were killed and another two detained in the operation. It is not clear who the victims were. Three police officers were also wounded in the initial shootout, the sources said.
French media said the target of the operation was Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a key suspect of Friday’s attacks, in which at least 129 people were killed. Another suspect, Salah Abdeslam, was also said to be a target in the raid.
Heavily armed special police units and ambulances were gathering at the scene as a helicopter was hovering over the area, Al Jazeera’s Rowland reported.
“Saint-Denis is a relatively poor area, housing many immigrants. It is near the area of the national stadium Stade de France, where suicide bombers claimed several lives during Friday’s attacks,” Rowland said.
Police were telling onlookers to clear the vicinity of the operation and blocked off a street in the area, as ambulances and fire engines lined the streets a stone’s throw from the centre of Saint-Denis.
Friday night’s attacks in the French capital, claimed by ISIL, raised security concerns around the world, with an international football match called off in Germany and two Air France flights from the United States diverted.
French President Francois Hollande on Wednesday will hold a meeting to discuss proposals to extend by three months the state of emergency declared after the worst attacks in French history.
It will then be put to vote by lawmakers on Thursday and Friday.
In a sign of the nervousness gripping Europe after Friday’s carnage, a football match between Germany and the Netherlands was cancelled on Tuesday and the crowd evacuated after police acted on a “serious” bomb threat.
As police stepped up the hunt for the fugitives, French and Russian jets pounded Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) targets in the group’s self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa in Syria for a third consecutive day.
France and Russia have vowed merciless retaliation for the Paris attacks and last month’s bombing of a Russian airliner, also claimed by ISIL, which have galvanised international resolve to destroy the group and end Syria’s more than four-year civil war.
“It’s necessary to establish direct contact with the French and work with them as allies,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said as France prepared to send an aircraft carrier to the eastern Mediterranean.
Hollande will meet Putin in Moscow on November 26, two days after seeing US President Barack Obama in Washington. Al Jazeera