France launches dawn raids; attacks IS in Syria

ASEAN+ November 17, 2015 06:53

By Agence France Presse
Paris

Hollande ready for more violence; police find weapons, arrest 23; 104 under house arrest



France staged pre-dawn raids on dozens of suspected Islamists and bombed Islamic State (IS)’s stronghold in Syria as the prime minister steeled the nation yesterday for more bloodshed after its deadliest ever terror attacks.

As France prepared to observe a minute’s silence in honour of the 129 people killed in Friday’s bloodbath, police conducted “several dozen” raids across the country, uncovering in one case “an arsenal of weapons”.

Police found a rocket launcher and weapons in the southeastern city of Lyon as the manhunt for at least one “dangerous” suspect intensified.

French prosecutors said they had identified two more attackers involved in the assault, including one previously charged in a “terrorist” case.

The 28-year-old Samy Amimour was involved in the massacre of 89 people in the Bataclan concert hall, they said.

The second was carrying a Syrian passport in the name of Ahmad al Mohammad, although authorities said the authenticity of the document had yet to be verified.

French Interior Minister Bernade Cazeneuve said there has been 23 arrests and 168 raids overnight. He said 104 people are under house arrest.

Addressing a grieving nation, Prime Minister Manuel Valls warned that more attacks could be yet to come.

Valls said Friday’s attacks were “planned from Syria”, where French planes had bombed the stronghold of the IS, which had claimed responsibility for Friday’s carnage.

‘Planned in Belgium’

Residents of Paris tried to pick up their daily lives, despite the national state of emergency that remains in place.

Metro trains were full of commuters and the streets were livelier than usual at the weekend.

Attention was also turning to Belgium after French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the attacks were “prepared abroad and involved a team situated in Belgian territory and who may have benefited from... complicity in France”.

French authorities released a photograph of 26-year-old Salah Abdeslam, a suspect also wanted in Belgium.

Abdeslam is one of the three brothers linked to the slaughter and lives in Brussels, in the rundown immigrant neighbourhood of Molenbeek, where police have made several arrests.

Seven of the gunmen and suicide bombers were killed in the attacks, but prosecutors have said they believe three teams were involved, suggesting some suspects are on the run, possibly in Belgium.

Seven of the gunmen and suicide bombers died in the bloodshed, with three blowing themselves up outside the Stade de France, where France and Germany were playing an international football friendly.

Three heavily-armed gunmen wearing explosives opened fire on crowds enjoying a Friday night out at cafes and at the Bataclan concert hall, where 89 people were killed as they watched a gig by American group Eagles of Death Metal.

In a further sign of the growing Belgian connection, investigators said two cars used in the violence had been hired there.

One was found near the Bataclan venue, and the other in the suburb of Montreuil east of Paris, with a number of AK47 rifles inside.

Vigils were held across the globe over the weekend, and in many capitals, buildings and monuments were illuminated in the red, white and blue of the French flag.

The worst terror attack in French history comes less than 11 months after jihadists struck satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket, killing 17.

After Hollande promised a “merciless” response to the attacks, French jets hit an IS command post, a recruitment centre, a munitions depot and a “terrorist” training camp in Raqa late Sunday, the defence ministry said. The operation was coordinated with US forces by a dozen aircraft, which took off from Jordan and the UAE.

Islamic State claimed it attacked Paris in revenge for the French campaign of air strikes in Syria and threatened further violence “as long as it [France] continues its Crusader campaign”.

The prime minister said authorities have so far identified 103 of the dead, who included journalists, lawyers, students and parents of small children. Most are under 40.

The first attacker was named as Omar Ismail Mostefai, a French citizen, 29, who was identified from a severed finger found among the carnage at the Bataclan.