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Siege unfolds in Belgian extremist hub as suspected 'mastermind' of Paris attacks identified

DEVELOPING -- Explosions rang out during a massive police operation in the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek as investigators searched for a suspect in the Paris massacre, but the final results of Monday's siege were unclear.
Police refused to provide any details about the exact target, or who may have set off the explosions. Dozens of masked and heavily armed security officials had sealed off the area and neighbors were told to stay out of harm's way.
Molenbeek mayor Francoise Schepmans said the operation ended after more than three hours.
Police arrested three suspects in the impoverished Brussels neighborhood on Saturday and continued house searches.
The siege unfolded as investigators identified a Belgian jihadist believed to be fighting alongside ISIS in Syria as the suspected mastermind behind Friday's attacks that killed at least 129 people.
A French official told The Associated Press that Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a 27-year-old from Molenbeek, was also believed to have ties to to the thwarted attack on a Paris-bound high-speed train this past August, as well as a failed plot to attack a Paris-area church. He is reportedly the child of Moroccan immigrants to Belgium.
The Daily Telegraph reported 
  that Abaaoud was the head of a terror cell based in Verviers, Belgium that was broken up by police this past January. However, he appears to have escaped the clutches of the authorities and made his way to Syria.
Another suspect, 26-year-old Salah Abdeslam, had been stopped at the French border with Belgium early Saturday, hours after the attacks, The Associated Press reported.
Three French police officials and a top French security official told the news agency that border officers let Abdeslam go after checking his ID. By then, hours had passed since authorities identified Abdeslam as the renter of a Volkswagen Polo that carried hostage takers to the Bataclan, where 89 concert-goers were murdered by terrorists. 
Three Kalashnikovs were found inside another car, a Belgian-registered Seat Leon known to have been used in the attacks, in Montreuil, an eastern Parisian suburb, another French police official said.
Earlier Monday, the scope of the terror threat facing Western Europe became clear as French police uncovered an "arsenal" of weapons as part of 168 pre-dawn raids on suspected Islamists across the country, while France's prime minister warned that "terrorism could strike again in the days or weeks to come."
"I don't want to scare people but to warn them," Manuel Valls told RTL radio. "We will keep living for a long time with the terrorist threat."
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told reporters that 104 people have been placed under house arrest in the past 48 hours and that 31 weapons had been seized, including a rocket launcher, a flak jacket, and 15 handguns.
"It's just a start," Cazeneuve said, "these operations are going to continue, the response of the Republic will be huge, will be total. The one who targets the Republic, the Republic will catch him, will be implacable."
Hours earlier, twelve French aircraft, including ten fighter jets, dropped 20 bombs on a command and control center, a jihadi recruitment center, munitions depot and ISIS training camp in the Syrian city of Raqqa, France's Defense Ministry said in a statement. Raqqa is the de facto capital of ISIS' "caliphate."
The raid was launched from the United Arab Emirates and Jordan and was carried out in coordination with U.S. forces. A Pentagon source told Fox News, "these were French strikes but they were conducted within the coalition. We helped with [the] target list."
The U.S. has conducted the vast majority of coalition attacks on ISIS territory up to this point, and has been almost solely responsible for all coalition bombings of ISIS inside Syria. However, the nature of Friday's attacks, which devastated France and shocked the world, changed the calculus.
Also Monday, the Paris prosecutor's office identified two more of the attackers who caused the deadliest day in Paris since the Second World War. 
One of the suicide bombers who blew himself up in the Bataclan concert hall after helping to murder 89 concert-goers was identified as 28-year-old Samy Amimour, a French national who had been charged with terrorism offenses in 2012 and was the subject of an international arrest warrant. The Associated Press reported that Amimour had been placed under judicial supervision but dropped off authorities' radar and was the subject of an international arrest warrant. Family members told the AFP news agency that Amimour had traveled to Syria in 2013. The Paris prosecutor said three members of Amimour's family had been detained in the Bobigny raids Monday. 
Also, a suicide bomber who blew himself up outside the national soccer stadium was found with a Syrian passport with the name Ahmad Al Mohammad, a 25-year-old born in Idlib. The prosecutor's office says fingerprints from the attacker match those of someone who passed through Greece in October.
Investigators continued to grapple with piecing together the scale of a terror plot that may involve as many as 20 people. According to The Daily Telegraph,
  investigators were forced to expand their investigation after a parking ticket inside a discarded Volkswagen Polo believed to have carried one group of attackers to the Bataclan Friday night was from Molenbeek, known as a hotbed of radical Islam in the Belgian capital.
French officials also told The New York Times that U.S. security services had alerted the Paris government in September that French jihadists in Syria were planning some kind of attack. That warning prompted French airstrikes against Raqqa on Oct. 8.
Meanwhile, AFP reported that Turkish authorities had foiled a plot to stage an attack in Instanbul on the same day as the assault on Paris. The official said five people had been detained, including an associate of "Jihadi John", the notorious ISIS terrorist believed to have been killed by a U.S. airstrike Thursday. 
"The initial investigation shows we foiled a major attack," the official said. The arrest came ahead of the G20 summit at the resort at Antalya, in southern Turkey.
Fox News' Jennifer Griffin and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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