HomeNewsSuspected Paris attack mastermind killed in raid, officials say

Suspected Paris attack mastermind killed in raid, officials say

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The suspected mastermind behind the deadly attacks in Paris was killed in a police raid on a suburban apartment building, the city prosecutor’s office announced Thursday.

latimes

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Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins’ office said the body of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a 27-year-old Belgian, was identified through DNA testing based on skin samples. The body was found in the apartment building targeted in the chaotic and bloody raid in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis on Wednesday.

Police launched the operation after receiving information from tapped phone calls, surveillance and tip-offs suggesting that Abaaoud was holed up there.

Police said that Abaaoud cousin was also killed and that she is believed to be the woman who blew herself up with an explosives vest at the beginning of the raid. Eight people were arrested in the operation.

With France still reeling from the Friday attacks that killed 129 people and wounded hundreds of others, Prime Minister Manuel Valls warned that Islamic extremists might at some point use chemical or biological weapons, and urged lawmakers to extend a national state of emergency by three months.

“Terrorism hit France not because of what it is doing in Iraq and Syria … but for what it is,” Valls told the lower house of Parliament earlier Thursday. He added, “We know that there could also be a risk of chemical or biological weapons.”

Valls did not say there was a specific threat involving such weapons.

The extension of the state of emergency was approved by the lower house of Parliament later in the day.

After approval in the National Assembly, the measure is set to go to the Senate, where it is likely to win approval on Friday.

The state of emergency expands police powers to carry out arrests and searches, and allows authorities to forbid the movement of persons and vehicles at specific times and places
Terror in Paris: What have investigators uncovered about the Paris attacks?
Terror in Paris: What have investigators uncovered about the Paris attacks?

French authorities declared the state of emergency after the attacks, and security forces have conducted 414 raids, making 60 arrests and seizing 75 weapons, including 11 military-style firearms, the Interior Ministry said.

Elsewhere in Europe, jittery leaders and law enforcement moved to protect their populations as Rob Wainwright, director of the European Union’s police coordination organization, Europol, warned of “a very serious escalation” of the terror threat on the continent.

In Italy, Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said law enforcement authorities were searching for five people flagged by the FBI in response to a U.S. warning about potential targets following the attacks that killed 129 people and wounded hundreds in the French capital.

The State Department issued a warning Wednesday that St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Milan’s cathedral and La Scala opera house, as well as churches, synagogues, restaurants, theaters and hotels had been identified as “potential targets.”

Danish and Norwegian police were asked to be on the lookout for a man Swedish authorities said is wanted in connection with an investigation into “preparation for a terrorist offense.” Sweden’s Security Service, known as SAPO, said the request was not linked to the Paris attacks.

In Belgium, where officials say many of the Paris attackers lived, Prime Minister Charles Michel announced a package of additional anti-terror measures, and said about $427 million (400 million euros) would be earmarked to expand the fight.

He told lawmakers that security personnel will be increased and special attention will be paid to eradicating messages of hate. He also called for more international cooperation, and said he wants to amend the Belgian Constitution to extend the length of time terror suspects can be held by police without charge.

“All democratic forces have to work together to strengthen our security,” Michel said.

In Belgium, authorities launched six raids in the Brussels region Thursday linked to Bilal Hadfi, one of the three suicide bombers who blew themselves up outside the Stade de France in north Paris during the attacks on Friday.

An official in the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office told the Associated Press the raids were taking place in the suburb of Molenbeek and other areas of Brussels. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing, said the actions were focusing on Hadfi’s “entourage.”

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius urged the international community to do more to eradicate the Islamic State group, which claimed responsibility for Friday’s attacks on a rock concert, Parisian cafes and the national stadium.

Fabius, speaking on France-Inter radio, said the group “is a monster. But if all the countries in the world aren’t capable of fighting against 30,000 people [Islamic State members], it’s incomprehensible.”

France has stepped up its airstrikes against the extremists in Syria, where Islamic State fighters hold a large swath of territory, and French military spokesman Col. Gilles Jaron said Thursday that French forces have destroyed 35 Islamic State targets in Syria since the attacks on Paris.

Next week, French President Francois Hollande is going to Washington and Moscow to push for a stronger international coalition against Islamic State.

Speaking after the seven-hour siege Thursday in Saint-Denis, Hollande said France was “at war” with Islamic State.

In its English-language magazine, Islamic State said it will continue its violence and “retaliate with fire and bloodshed” for insults against the prophet Muhammad and “the multitudes killed and injured in crusader airstrikes.”

Molins, the Paris prosecutor, said Wednesday that investigators found a cellphone in a garbage can outside the Bataclan concert hall in eastern Paris, where 89 of the victims of Friday’s carnage died. It contained a text message sent about 20 minutes after the massacre began. “We’re off, it’s started,” it read.

Molins said investigators were still trying to identify the recipient of the message.

French authorities have said most of the Friday attackers — five have been identified so far — were unknown to them. But two U.S. officials said that many, though not all, of those identified were on the U.S. no-fly list. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the issue publicly.

A Spanish security official said French authorities had sent a bulletin to police across Europe asking them to watch out for a Citroen Xsara car that could be carrying Salah Abdeslam, whose brother, Brahim, was among the attackers who blew themselves up.

MORE ON THE PARIS ATTACKS

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