Saturday 3 December 2016

Paris Terror Attacks: Police search for suspect believed to be driving black car in Italy

* Belgium holds two suspects on terrorism charges
* Armed stand-off in Brussels ended today as IS threatens to strike Washington next

Agencies

Published 16/11/2015 | 06:26

Armed police guard a street in Brussels on Monday, Nov. 16, 2015. A major action with heavily armed police is underway in the Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek amid a manhunt for a suspect of the Paris attacks. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
Armed police guard a street in Brussels on Monday, Nov. 16, 2015. A major action with heavily armed police is underway in the Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek amid a manhunt for a suspect of the Paris attacks. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
Belgian special forces police climb high on an apartment block during a raid, in search of suspected muslim fundamentalists linked to the deadly attacks in Paris, in the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek, November 16. 2015. REUTERS/Yves Herman
Belgian special forces police climb high on an apartment block during a raid, in search of suspected muslim fundamentalists linked to the deadly attacks in Paris, in the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek, November 16. 2015. REUTERS/Yves Herman
Belgian special forces police climb high on an apartment block during a raid, in search of suspected muslim fundamentalists linked to the deadly attacks in Paris, in the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek, November 16. 2015. REUTERS/Yves Herman
Belgian special forces police climb high on an apartment block during a raid, in search of suspected muslim fundamentalists linked to the deadly attacks in Paris, in the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek, November 16. 2015. REUTERS/Yves Herman
Abdelhamid Abaaoud had links to previous planned attacks
People pray outside Le Carillon restaurant, one of the attack sites in Paris, November 15, 2015. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen
This photo released on Sunday, Dec. 15, 2015 by the French Army Communications Audiovisual office (ECPAD) shows a French army jet on the tarmac of an undisclosed air base as part of France's Operation Chammal launched in September 2015 in support of the US-led coalition against Islamic State group. France launched "massive" air strikes on the Islamic State group's de-facto capital in Syria Sunday night, destroying a jihadi training camp and a munitions dump in the city of Raqqa, where Iraqi intelligence officials say the attacks on Paris were planned. (French Air Force/ECPAD via AP) THIS IMAGE MAY ONLY BE USED FOR 30 DAYS FROM TIME TRANSMISSION.
People light candles during a vigil in tribute to the victims of Paris attacks, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, November 15, 2015. The sign reads: "Cariocas, for peace in France." REUTERS/Pilar Olivares
People gather outside Le Carillon restaurant, one of the attack sites in Paris, November 15, 2015. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen
People gather outside Le Carillon restaurant, one of the attack sites in Paris, November 15, 2015. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen

Police in Italy are searching for a suspect in the Paris attacks who is believed to be driving a black Seat in the Turin area.

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The suspect is believed to be 32-year-old Baptiste Burgy who is in a car with the number plate GUT18053, Sky News reports.

Two of the seven people detained in Belgium on Saturday are being held on terrorism charges, Belgian federal prosecutors said today.

The two face charges of leading a terrorist attack and taking part in the activities of a terrorist organisation. Five of the seven also detained on Saturday were released after going before a judge.

Turkish authorities have also arrested more than half a dozen suspected Islamic State extremists who had exchanged messages with the militants in Paris who conducted the deadly attacks across the city.

The group in Turkey, who were detained before the Paris attacks, include a man believed to be associated with Mohammed Emwazi, the Islamic State militant known as "Jihadi John".

The suspects were detained in a raid on a luxury villa in the Istanbul suburb of Silivri on Thursday.

They were formally taken into custody early on Monday after questioning by anti-terrorism police.

The state-run Anadolu Agency said the group was made up of six militants, but the security official said more than six people were arrested.

The groups in Turkey and France had exchanged messages about a terror plot in Istanbul linked to the Paris attacks, the official said.

He identified one of the suspects as British national Aine Lesley Davis. He said Turkish officials are investigating his links to Emwazi.

Meanwhile, in Brussels, prosecutors said that the search of a house in the Brussels district of Molenbeek, which was under police siege for four hours, failed to produce evidence and no arrests were made.

Molenbeek mayor Francoise Schepmans told broadcaster RTBF that the operation was over with no one injured and that "arrests" had been made. RTBF later said one person had been detained.

Police said the operation was related to the Paris attacks and the search for Saleh Abdeslam, a 26-year-old Frenchman based in the Belgian capital for whom an international arrest warrant has been issued.

A journalist at the scene said that three special force commandos wearing gas masks entered the sieged house via the roof. After some 10-15 minutes, they came out of the front door. Armoured vehicles were also in position.

The poor district of Molenbeek, home to many Muslim immigrants, has been at the centre of investigations of militant attacks in Paris over the weekend, after it emerged that two of the attackers had lived in the area

 

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The district of Molenbeek has been at the centre of investigations of militant attacks in Paris over the weekend, after it emerged that two of the attackers had lived in the area.

Meanwhile, Islamic State has threatened an attack on Washington in a new video and said that countries taking part in air strikes against Syria would "suffer the same fate" as France.

The video, which appeared on a site used by Islamic State to post its messages, begins with news footage of the aftermath of Friday's Paris shootings in which at least 129 people were killed.

The message to countries involved in what it called the "crusader campaign" was delivered by a man dressed in fatigues and a turban, and identified in subtitles as Al Ghareeb the Algerian.

"We say to the states that take part in the crusader campaign that, by God, you will have a day, God willing, like France's and by God, as we struck France in the centre of its abode in Paris, then we swear that we will strike America at its centre in Washington," the man said.

Earlier today, the man believed to be the mastermind behind the attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, was

"He appears to be the brains behind several planned attacks in Europe," the source said, adding that the man, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, was the investigators' best lead as the person likely behind the killing of at least 129 people in Paris on Friday.

According to RTL Radio, Abaaoud is a 27 year-old from the Molenbeek suburb of Brussels, home to other members of the militant Islamist cell that carried out the attacks.

A series of tweets appeared before the attacks hinting at the bloodshed to come, The New York Post reports.

A twitter account operated by Isil supporters said Paris should be prepared, just 19 hours before the attack started.

“Soon in the centre of Paris, God willing…” the @Jihad_For_IS account said, with two emojis – an explosion and a fire.

The account has now been shut down.

It was also revealed that a senior Iraqi intelligence official warned the US-led coalition – which includes France – about a looming threat of “bombings or assassinations or hostage taking” just one day before the Paris attacks. It’s not known how specific the intelligence was.

Meanwhile, the suspected mastermind of the Paris attacks has been named as Belgian Abdelhamid Abaaoud by French officials.

It has been reported that Abaaoud had links to thwarted attacks on a Paris-bound high-speed train and church.

It has also emerged that one of the suicide bombers in the Paris attack had featured in a previous terrorism investigation but slipped through the net.

Prosecutors identified one of the assailants who blew himself up in the Bataclan music hall on Friday as Samy Amimour, a 28-year-old Frenchman.

In a disclosure that will deepen concerns over possible intelligence failures, officials revealed that Amimour had been charged in a terror probe in 2012 over claims he planned to travel to Yemen.

He was placed under judicial supervision but dropped off the radar - prompting authorities to issue an international arrest warrant.

It was also revealed that a suicide bomber who blew himself up outside the national soccer stadium was found with a Syrian passport in the name of Ahmad Al Mohammad, a 25-year-old born in Idlib.

His fingerprints matched those of someone who passed through Greece in October.

Earlier today,  168 police raids have been carried out in France overnight.

The French interior minister said police raided the locations last night across the country.

BFM TV news agency is reporting that five people have been arrested in Lyon and a rocket launcher has been seized in the series of raids.

Manuel Valls spoke on French radio RTL on Monday morning, reaffirming President Francois Hollande's declaration that "we are at war" against terrorism following Friday's attacks in Paris.

Mr Valls also warned that there could be more attacks "in the coming days, in the coming weeks".

Meanwhile, two more of the suicide bombers responsible for the terrorist rampage across the capital that killed 129 people have been named.

A judicial source said a 20-year-old Frenchman police identified as one of the three suicide bombers to strike at the Stade de France stadium was Bilal Hadfi.

A 31-year-old identified by police as the suicide bomber who detonated his explosive vest on Boulevard Voltaire in Paris was named as Brahim Abdeslam, the source said.

Abdeslam is the older brother of 26-year-old Salah Abdeslam, who is currently the subject of an international manhunt.

A third suicide bomber, Ismael Mostefai, 29, had already been named by police, after being identified through remains found at the Bataclan music hall, another of the six separate attack sites across Paris and its suburbs.

French media reported there had been arrests in Grenoble, in south-eastern France, where anti-terror officers recovered firearms and cash.

There were also reports of raids in Jeumont, on the border with Belgium, Toulouse and in Bobigny, in the north-eastern suburbs of Paris.

France also launched air strikes against Islamic State (IS) targets in Syria.

France said it launched "massive" air strikes on the IS group's de-facto capital, destroying a jihadi training camp and a munitions dump in the city of Raqqa, where Iraqi intelligence officials say the attacks on Paris were planned.

Twelve aircraft, including 10 fighter jets, dropped a total of 20 bombs in the biggest air strikes since France extended its bombing campaign against the extremist group to Syria in September, the defence ministry said.

The jets launched from sites in Jordan and the Persian Gulf, in co-ordination with US forces.

Foreign minister Laurent Fabius said France had the "legitimacy" to take action against Islamic State after the terror attacks in Paris.

Speaking on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Turkey, he said the decision to conduct air strikes in Raqqa against IS targets was a "political" one.

France had to be "present and active" following Friday's attacks, Mr Fabius said.

As police announced seven arrests and hunted for more members of the sleeper cell that carried out the Paris attacks, French officials revealed that several key suspects had been stopped and released by police after the attack.

The arrest warrant for Salah Abdeslam calls him very dangerous and warns people not to intervene if they see him.

Yet police already had him in their grasp early on Saturday, when they stopped a car carrying three men near the Belgian border.

By then, hours had passed since authorities identified Abdeslam as the renter of a Volkswagen Polo that carried hostage-takers to the Paris theatre where so many died.

Three French police officials and a senior French security official confirmed that officers let Abdeslam go after checking his ID.

Tantalising clues about the extent of the plot have emerged from Baghdad, where senior Iraqi officials said France and other countries had been warned on Thursday of an imminent attack.

An Iraqi intelligence dispatch warned that Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had ordered his followers to immediately launch gun and bomb attacks and take hostages inside the countries of the coalition fighting them in Iraq and Syria.

The Iraqi dispatch, which was obtained by the Associated Press, provided no details on when or where the attack would take place. A senior French security official said French intelligence gets these kinds of warnings "all the time" and "every day".

However, Iraqi intelligence officials told the AP they also warned France about specific details - including that the attackers were trained for this operation and sent back to France from Raqqa.

The officials also said that a sleeper cell in France then met the attackers after their training and helped them to execute the plan.

There were 24 people involved in the operation, they said, 19 attackers and five others in charge of logistics and planning.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility. Its statement mocked France's air attacks on suspected IS targets in Syria and Iraq, and called Paris "the capital of prostitution and obscenity".

In all, three teams of attackers including seven suicide bombers attacked the national stadium, the concert hall and nearby nightspots. The attacks wounded 350 people, 99 of them seriously.

Abdeslam rented the black Volkswagen Polo used by the hostage-takers. A Brussels parking ticket found inside led police to at least one of the arrests in Belgium, a French police official said.

Three Kalashnikovs were found inside another car known to have been used in the attacks that was found in Montreuil, an eastern Parisian suburb.

As many as three of the seven suicide bombers were French citizens, as was at least one man arrested in the Molenbeek neighbourhood of Brussels.

Mostefai had a record of petty crime and had been flagged in 2010 for ties to Islamic radicalism, the Paris prosecutor said.

Police detained his father, a brother and other relatives and they were still being questioned.

Struggling to keep his country calm and united after an exceptionally violent year, Mr Hollande met opposition leaders - conservative rival and former president Nicolas Sarkozy as well as increasingly popular far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who has used the attacks on Paris to advance her anti-immigrant agenda.

Refugees fleeing war by the tens of thousands fear the Paris attacks could prompt Europe to close its doors, especially after police said a Syrian passport found next to one attacker's body suggested its owner passed through Greece into the European Union and on through Macedonia and Serbia last month.

Paris remains on edge amid three days of official mourning. French troops have deployed by the thousands and tourist sites were closed in one of the most visited cities on Earth.

But the city's museums will reopen today, including the Louvre and the Musee d'Orsay.

Culture minister Fleur Pellerin said all museums in Paris and nearby towns will reopen at noon UK time, following a minute of silence being observed across France an hour earlier.

Meanwhile, Irish people have been urged to join a Europe-wide minute's silence at 11am to remember the 129 people killed in the rampage in the French capital.

President Michael D Higgins will lead the nation in observing the silence in remembrance of the victims.

British police and spies are working closely with counterparts in France and Belgium to identify and pursue those behind the Paris massacre.

Security has been beefed up in UK cities and ports as Britons were urged to remain vigilant, although the terror threat level has not been changed from the second-highest "severe" rating.

The security and intelligence services will receive a major funding boost in response to the IS threat, which has been blamed for the bombing of a Russian airliner in Egypt and the Paris attack in recent weeks.

Mr Cameron has announced a 15% increase in the 12,700-strong staff of the security and intelligence agencies MI5, MI6 and GCHQ with the recruitment of an additional 1,900 personnel.

More details have emerged about the IS attack which was the worst terrorist outrage in Europe for more than a decade, leaving at least 129 dead and 350 wounded.

:: Prosecutors believe three teams of terrorists carried out the co-ordinated attacks

:: As many as three of the seven suicide terrorists killed on Friday night were French. Two were Frenchmen living in Brussels

:: Bilal Hadfi has been named as one of the assailants and is said to have fought with IS in Syria. The 20-year-old, was identified by police as one of the three suicide bombers at the Stade de France.

:: Three Kalashnikov assault rifles were discovered inside the Seat car used in the attacks which was found in the suburb of Montreuil, four miles east of Paris

:: One of the attackers was identified as 29-year-old Frenchman Ismael Mostefai, who had been flagged for links to Islamic radicalism

:: Seven people have been arrested in Belgium and six in France in connection with the killings, including Mostefai's father and brother. More arrests were reported by French media overnight in Grenoble, in the south-east of the country

French media reported there had been arrests in Grenoble, in south-eastern France, where anti-terror officers had recovered firearms and cash.

:: At lleast one of the men arrested in Belgium was a French national

:: It has been reported that one of the attackers passed through Europe as a refugee using a Syrian passport to enter Greece. The passport was also registered in Serbia and Croatia. The name on the passport was Ahmad Almohammad, according to reports

The only British fatality confirmed so far is Nick Alexander, 36, from Colchester, who was selling merchandise for rock group Eagles of Death Metal when their gig at the Bataclan was targeted.

Video has emerged of the moment the terrorists attacked, firing repeatedly at fans as band members fled the stage.

In a sign of the continued tension in Paris, the Place de la Republique - where huge crowds had gathered - was suddenly evacuated with people fleeing in terror.

The square, where Channel 4 News was broadcasting live at the time, was reopened after it was confirmed the panic was the result of a false alarm.

Speaking from the G20 summit in Turkey, Mr Cameron said Europe would be safer if the threat from IS - also known as Isil - was dealt with.

He said: "It's become even more clear that our safety and security depends on degrading and ultimately destroying Isil whether it's in Iraq or Syria.

"We're playing a huge role in that already in Iraq. Others are taking action in Syria which we both support and enable, but we've got to keep on making the case that we will be safer in the UK, in France, right across Europe if we destroy this death cult once and for all."

It has emerged Iraqi intelligence warned countries in the US-led coalition against IS, including France, of an imminent assault the day before the Paris attacks.

But the Iraqi dispatch provided no details on when or where the attack would take place, and a senior French security official described it as the kind of warning French intelligence gets "all the time" and "every day".

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