•A police siege in the Paris suburb St-Denis targeted the suspected mastermind of the Paris massacre Abdelhamid Abaaoud
•Suspects were barricaded inside an apartment
•Two have been killed, seven others have been arrested
•One - a woman - detonated a suicide belt, another was shot by police
•Four police officers have been wounded
•No hostages are being held
•Large explosions were heard at the scene
•They came after an exchange of gunfire between police and terror suspects
•Army deployed on streets
A WOMAN wearing an explosive suicide vest blew herself up Wednesday as heavily armed police tried to storm a suburban Paris apartment where the suspected mastermind of last week's gun and bomb rampage was believed to be holed up, police said.
They said one man was also killed and five people arrested in the standoff, which began before dawn and continued more than five hours later. One person remained inside the apartment, but it wasn't clear who.
A senior police official said he believed Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian Islamic State militant, was inside the apartment in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis with five other heavily armed people when the raid started.
The official, who was not authorised to be publicly named according to police rules but is informed routinely about the operation, said scores of police stormed the building and were met with unexpectedly violent resistance.
Another police official not authorised to be publicly named because of police rules said four police officers were injured. No hostages were being held.
The Paris prosecutor's office said SWAT teams arrested three people in the apartment. It said they haven't been identified yet.
Another man and woman were detained near the apartment, the office said in a statement.
French President Francois Hollande held holding an emergency meeting with senior ministers at the Elysee Palace to monitor the raid.
Residents said an explosion shook the neighborhood at about 1pm (AEST).
"Then there was a second big explosion. Then two more explosions. There was an hour of gunfire," said Baptiste Marie, a 26-year-old independent journalist who lives in the neighborhood.
Another witness, Amine Guizani, said he heard the sound of grenades and automatic gunfire.
"They were shooting for an hour. Nonstop. There were grenades. It was going, stopping. Kalashnikovs. Starting again," Guizani said.
Sporadic bangs and explosions continued, and at 4:30 pm (AEST) at least seven explosions shook the center of Saint-Denis. Associated Press reporters at the scene could hear what sounded like grenade blasts from the direction of the standoff.
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.
5:30PM: FRENCH police say two people have been killed and three arrested in a police operation in northern Paris.
French channel iTele reports one of the three people who have died is a woman who blew herself up with a suicide belt.
A senior French police official says a large police operation north of Paris is targeting the suspected mastermind of last week's attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud.
The official says authorities believe Abaaoud is holed up in an apartment in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis, along with up to five other heavily armed people.
The official, who was not authorised to be publicly named according to police rules but is informed routinely about the operation, says that scores of police who stormed the building early Wednesday (French time) were met with unexpectedly violent resistance. Reinforcements were summoned and several people were injured.
Police vans and fire trucks rushed to the scene north of Paris, less than two kilometres from the Stade de France stadium. Three suicide bombers blew themselves up Friday near the stadium during an international soccer match with French President Francois Hollande in attendance.
In Saint-Denis on Wednesday, police cordoned off the area nearby, including a pedestrian zone lined with shops and 19th-century apartment buildings. Riot police cleared people from the streets, pointing guns at curious residents to move them off the roads.
Saint-Denis is one of France's most historic places. French kings were crowned and buried through the centuries in its famed basilica. Today it is home to a vibrant and very ethnically diverse population and sees sporadic tension between police and violent youths.
Saint-Denis Mayor Didier Paillard said public transport was suspended and that schools in the center of town would not open Wednesday.
4:40PM: Three people have been arrested and two police officers injured after a shoot out in the northern Paris suburb of Saint-Denis, local officials have reported.
Agence France-Presse is reporting a person has died at the scene.
Residents communicating with local media have reported that the gunfire has ceased for now.
Deputy mayor Stephane Peu has reassured the public that the gunfire is not part of a new attack but is "a police intervention."
The Daily Telegraph is reporting counter-terrorist police are trying to arrest a suspect in Friday's attacks.
Mouvement des policiers opération toujours en cours après 1h30 d'échanges de tirs rue de la République à Saint Denis pic.twitter.com/1rAeTZSUcB— Djamel Mazi (@djamel_mazi) November 18, 2015
EARLIER: HEAVY gunfire has broken out during a police operation on the northern edge of Paris, five days after 129 people were killed in the city.
The shots were heard in Saint-Denis with a source reporting to local media that a special armed response unit took part in a raid there.
There are reports two or three men have barricaded themselves in an apartment and that at least one person, possibly a police officer, has been injured.
#BREAKING Suspects still holed up in raided apartment in northern Paris: police— Agence France-Presse (@AFP) November 18, 2015
Saint-Denis is home to Stade de France, one of the targets of Friday's attacks.
Residents have been told to stay inside their homes.
A police helicopter is also overhead,
Meanwhile, two Air France planes bound for Paris have been diverted and evacuated.
Police are still looking for two of the nine attackers including Belgian-born Sala Abdeslam and another unidentified man.
A search is also underway for Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who is believed to be the ringleader.