Reports are emerging of an anti-terror operation conducted early Wednesday morning in Lille, France. Members of the elite French special forces anti-terrorism unit known as RAID (Research, Assistance, Intervention, and Dissuasion) were dispatched to two locations within the city, where they have reportedly taken two women into custody.
RAID used explosives to breach the door of one of the houses they entered in the early morning, providing the neighborhood with a surprise wake-up call and resulting in placing a 32-year-old woman under arrest. The other woman, aged 33, was reportedly arrested elsewhere in the city.
Residents of the neighborhood around the first arrest told the local media that they were awoken by a loud “bang,” and came outside to find masked police officers entering the building. Local media reports that both women were taken into custody within a two-hour period of time. They are currently being held in Lille’s central police station awaiting transfer to the headquarters of the General Directorate for Internal Security.
According to unconfirmed reports in the local media, the two women were both involved in planning and attempting to execute an impending terror attack. The women are both reportedly Muslim, but there have been no official statements regarding any potential ties to the Islamic State or other extremist organizations.
Women are not traditionally permitted to take part in the offensive operations of Islamic terrorist organizations like ISIS or Al Qaeda. Less than ten percent of terror attacks are carried out by women, but these arrests could be indicative of a cultural shift within extremist groups; allowing women to play a more active role as personnel and resources are becoming increasingly depleted under the weight of an international effort to “annihilate ISIS.”
RAID is comprised of 200 highly trained Special Operators formally tasked with combatting major robberies, organized crime, and terrorism. RAID is often France’s highest profile response force, being called in for widely publicized situations that often involve hostages. Although they are based out of Paris, RAID can be deployed to any region of the country they’re needed, as directed by France’s traditional police force. In 2012, RAID was deployed Toulouse in southern France in response to mass murderer and terrorist Mohamed Merah killing seven people. RAID participated in a 32-hour standoff with Merah before ultimately killing him.
RAID was also responsible for the rescue of 21 kindergarteners and their teacher after they were held hostage for two days by a man with 16 sticks of dynamite strapped to his chest in 1993. That perpetrator was also killed in RAID’s operation.
RAID’s arrests come on the tail of a ISIS-linked terror attack in the Manchester Arena in Manchester, UK on Monday night. Salman Abedi, a British-born national of Libyan descent, had just returned to England after a three-week trip to Libya days before detonating explosives inside an Ariana Grande concert. Twenty-two people died in the attack, including Abedi himself, and more than fifty others were wounded. UK officials report that Abedi had known ties to ISIS and may have been a part of a larger operating cell in Europe, prompting them to raise their terror alert level to “critical,” the highest level allotted to their national system.
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