Intelligence led investigators to believe the Belgian suspect was in an apartment in Saint-Denis to the north of Paris, triggering a ferocious seven-hour shootout there with police that began before dawn. At least two people were killed, a woman thought to have blown herself up with a suicide vest and another body that was found riddled with bullets, the prosecutor said.

Police rained more than 5,000 rounds of ammunition on the building after terrified residents living in the area near the Stade de France stadium were evacuated. A series of explosions rang out as the police closed in on the dwelling and one suspect was seen being dragged away, his bare buttocks exposed.

At least two bodies were found in the badly damaged building after the shootout, but identifying them was proving difficult, Molins told a press conference. The body that had sustained a number of gunshots was "not in a state that allows it to be identified", he said.

Due to the severe damage to the building, it was impossible to know how many died and who they were, the prosecutor said. Eight people were arrested but neither Abaaoud nor 26-year-old Salah Abdeslam, suspected of taking part in the attacks in Paris with his suicide-bomber brother Brahim, were among those held, the prosecutor said.

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