Saturday 21 September 2019

Paris Terror Attacks: Three people arrested in Germany in connection with Friday's massacre

German police in the western city of Aachen have arrested two women and one man in an operation linked to the attacks last Friday in Paris which killed at least 129 people.

"After (receiving) leads we arrested two women and one man," said a spokeswoman for Aachen police on Tuesday, declining to give any information on the identity or nationality of the three individuals.

German broadcaster ARD had reported the arrests took place in Alsdorf, a small town near Aachen in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia and close to Germany's border with Belgium and the Netherlands. Other German media quoted a witness as saying police made the arrests in front of a job centre.

A manhunt is on in France and Belgium for one of the eight attackers involved in shooting and bomb attacks on restaurants, a music hall and a sports stadium in the Paris region on Friday.

The news came after France made an unprecedented demand for its European Union allies to support its military action against IS as it launched new air strikes on the militants' Syrian stronghold.

France invoked a never-before-used article of the EU's Lisbon Treaty obliging members of the 28-nation bloc to give "aid and assistance by all the means in their power" to a member country that is "the victim of armed aggression on its territory".

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said EU partners could help "either by taking part in France's operations in Syria or Iraq, or by easing the load or providing support for France in other operations".

Arriving for talks in Brussels on Tuesday with his EU counterparts, Greek Defence Minister Panagiotis Kammenos told reporters that "we're in a new situation in Europe. This is September 11 for Europe."

A French military spokesman said the latest air strikes in Islamic State's de-facto capital of Raqqa destroyed a command post and training camp.

On Monday, President Francois Hollande vowed to forge a united coalition capable of defeating the jihadists at home and abroad.

Mr Hollande said the victims came from at least 19 nations, and the international community, led by the US and Russia, must overcome their deep-seated divisions over Syria to destroy IS on its home turf.

Authorities have yet to announce the capture of anyone suspected of direct involvement in the slaughter, although police have used emergency powers to conduct almost 300 searches since Sunday night which netted 127 arrests and 31 weapons.

A car with Belgian licence plates and a shattered front passenger window found in northern Paris on Tuesday could be linked to the attacks, officials said.

It was the third vehicle identified as having possible links to the investigation.

Seven attackers died - six after detonating suicide belts and a seventh from police gunfire - but Iraqi intelligence officials told The Associated Press that its sources indicated 19 participated in the attack and five others provided hands-on logistical support.

In Belgium, a lawyer for one of the two people arrested there said his client admits going to France, but only to pick up a friend.

Defence lawyer Xavier Carrette said his client, 27-year-old Mohammed Amri, was arrested over the weekend and is being held on charges of terrorist acts and being part of a terrorist conspiracy.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry said a cease-fire between Syria's government and opposition - which would allow nations supporting Syria's various factions to focus more on IS - could be just weeks away.

He described it as potentially a "gigantic step", opening the way for deeper international co-operation.

Mr Kerry flew to France as a gesture of solidarity and met Mr Hollande and Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Tuesday.

Standing with Mr Hollande at the Elysee Palace, Mr Kerry said the carnage in the French capital on Friday, along with recent attacks in Egypt, Lebanon and Turkey, made it clear that more pressure must be brought to bear on the Islamic extremists.

He said: "We have to step up our efforts to hit them at the core where they're planning these things and also obviously to do more on borders in terms the movement of people."

Mr Hollande said the "acts of war" were decided and planned in Syria, which he said was "the biggest factory of terrorism the world has ever known and the international community is still too divided and too incoherent".

The attacks "were organised in Belgium and perpetrated on our soil with French complicity with one specific goal: to sow fear and to divide us", Mr Hollande told parliament in a rare joint session convened at the Palace of Versailles.

French and other Western intelligence agencies face an urgent challenge to track down the surviving members of the three Islamic State units who inflicted the unprecedented bloodshed in France and, perhaps more importantly, to target their distant commanders in IS-controlled parts of Syria.

Anti-terror intelligence officials have identified Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian of Moroccan descent, as chief architect of the attacks on a rock concert, a football game and popular nightspots in one of Paris' trendiest districts.

Abaaoud came to public attention last year by boasting in an IS propaganda video about his pride in piling the dead bodies of "infidel" enemies into a trailer.

Anti-terror agencies previously linked him to a series of abortive shooting plots this year in Belgium and France, including a planned attack on a passenger train that was thwarted by American passengers who overpowered the lone gunman.

French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve said on Tuesday that police carried out 128 police raids overnight, as he conceded that "the majo

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