Thursday Morning update on Paris Attacks: France didn’t know mastermind was in Europe
PARIS (AP) — The latest on the deadly attacks in Paris. (All times local):
Official: Paris attacks mastermind believed behind 4 of 6 attacks thwarted since spring 2015.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve says France did not know before last week’s deadly attacks that suspected mastermind Abdelhamid Abaaoud was in Europe.
Cazeneuve spoke Thursday, shortly after French authorities announced the Belgian jihadi, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, was killed in a raid Wednesday in a suburb of Paris.
He said Abaaoud was believed to be behind four of six attacks thwarted by France since spring 2015.
Friday’s devastating attacks in central Paris killed 129 people and wounded hundreds more.
Germany’s federal prosecutors say they are investigating unidentified individuals on charges of forming a terrorist organization following the wake of an alleged threat to attack a soccer match in Hannover.
A prosecutors’ spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Thursday the goals of the investigation include determining if there was a terrorist organization. He wouldn’t provide further details.
Tuesday’s friendly match between Germany and the Netherlands was called off at short notice after authorities said they had received mounting information during the day about a possible attack.
German media reported that a foreign intelligence agency had warned Germany of a possible attack by Islamic extremists. No explosives were found and there were no arrests.
Cyprus’ foreign minister says his country is ready to accommodate any French request to use of the east Mediterranean island’s main air base for airstrikes in Syria.
Ioannis Kasoulides said after talks with his British counterpart, Philip Hammond, on Thursday that the Cypriot government will be “very glad to provide them with this solidarity and assistance” if the French government asks.
Cyprus’ eastern-most edge is less than 100 miles (160 kilometers) from the Syrian coastline. Cypruse has a standing agreement with France for use of its air base near the southwestern coastal town of Paphos in support of air missions in the region.
The lower house of the French Parliament has voted to extend a state of emergency for three months after last week’s deadly attacks.
After approval in the National Assembly on Thursday, the measure goes to the Senate on Friday, where it is likely to win approval.
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.
Three police officials say a woman killed during a raid on an apartment in suburban Paris was the cousin of the alleged mastermind of last week’s attacks.
One official says Hasna Aitboulahcen is believed to have detonated a suicide vest after a brief exchange with police officers.
According to the official, one of the officers asked: “Where is your boyfriend?” and she responded angrily: “He’s not my boyfriend!” Then there was an explosion.
The bodies recovered in the raid were badly mangled, with a part of the woman’s spine landing on a police car, complicating formal identification.
The officials say her exact relationship with the suspected mastermind, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, has not been confirmed. The officials all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not permitted to divulge details of the investigation.
The Paris prosecutor’s office confirmed Thursday that Abaaoud died in the raid.
The French manager of London soccer club Arsenal says he cannot understand why anyone would hate his homeland enough to commit Friday’s attacks.
Wenger told reporters in London: “I think France is, like England, a tolerant and generous country. And to discover how much your own citizens hate you and hate the country is of course a huge shock for everybody. You wonder what’s going on there: Why does this country get this kind of treatment?”
Wenger said France must raise security levels at soccer matches building up to the nation’s hosting of the European soccer championship next summer.
The Paris prosecutor says that the suspected mastermind of the Paris attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, was killed in a police raid.
In a statement Thursday, the prosecutor’s office said that Abaaoud’s body was found in an apartment building targeted in the raid in Saint-Denis north of Paris Wednesday. It said he was identified based on skin samples.
People across France are raising a glass of wine in an act of defiance after the deadly attacks on Paris.
The third Thursday in November is “Beaujolais Day,” when vintners release their latest batch of young, fruity Beaujolais Nouveau, and many bars and restaurants hold special tasting sessions.
President Francois Hollande has urged his compatriots to resume their social lives, asking: “What would our country be without its cafes?”
The question resonates loudly in the vibrant area of eastern Paris hit hardest by the attacks.
People there are determined to embrace the things that make life worth living: food, wine and friends.
Restaurateur Frederic Hoffman says: “This is what we do to make things go back to normal. We open the restaurant. We get people together.”
Poland’s President Andrzej Duda says that close cooperation of efficient armies is a way of ensuring peace and stability in Europe.
Duda made the statement Thursday to Polish, Czech, Slovak and Hungarian troops taking part in the Common Challenge-15 exercise in Drawsko Pomorskie in Poland
He referred to extremist threats against Europe’s peace that “recently so dramatically affected Europe, precisely speaking France.”
“The only answer that we can have in order to ensure peace and stability to our citizens is to have efficient armies that co-operate well together, ready to jointly carry out key stabilization, peace or humanitarian missions.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel says that the “horrible terrorist attacks in Paris” were more than a strike against France.
She told reporters on Thursday: “This is an attack on our basic values, on our way of life, on freedom… and all of the freedom-loving countries on earth must stand together in all areas to find the perpetrators and also to protect and secure our way of life.”
The French military says it has destroyed 35 Islamic State targets in Syria since last week’s attacks on Paris.
Military spokesman Col. Gilles Jaron said Thursday that French planes dropped about 60 bombs on six sites, and all the targets were Islamic State command centers or training sites.
He told reporters the strikes were aimed at weakening and disorganizing IS.
France, taking part in the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State extremists in Syria and Iraq, sharply increased its airstrikes in Syria after Friday’s attacks, which killed at least 129.
The Charles de Gaulle nuclear-powered aircraft carrier left Wednesday for the eastern Mediterranean, tripling France’s airborne forces in the fight against Islamic State.
Italy is searching for five people flagged by the FBI in response to a U.S. warning about potential targets following the Paris attacks.
Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni told RAI state broadcaster on Thursday that Italian law enforcement had been searching for the five people since Wednesday afternoon.
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.”
Gentiloni adds that the U.S. alert didn’t warn people to stay away from Italy. He said: “We cannot be prisoners of worry.”
Danish and Norwegian police have been asked to be on the lookout for a man that Swedish authorities say is wanted in connection with an investigation into “preparation for a terrorist offense.”
Lisbeth Jessen, spokeswoman for police in Denmark, says Sweden’s Security Service, known as SAPO, said the man entered Sweden this week. Norwegian police have made a similar statement.
SAPO said the request was not linked to the Paris attacks.
Jessen said Thursday they had “no concrete information he may be in Denmark” but that it was part of “the regular police cooperation with Sweden.”
On Wednesday, SAPO raised the country’s terror alert to the second-highest level.
The chief of the European Union’s police coordination organization says its database identifying and tracking suspected foreign fighters traveling between Europe and Syria and Iraq has doubled in size in the past year to now contain some 10,000 names.
Europol Director Rob Wainwright says that 2,000 of those names have been positively confirmed as foreign fighters. The rest are currently considered suspects, associates or facilitators.
Wainwright adds that there is a consensus across Europe that the number of foreign fighters is likely closer to 5,000.
Speaking Thursday in the European Parliament, Wainwright said that Europol’s major priority in recent years in fighting terror has been to “motivate the national authorities to share their counterterrorist data.”
Wainwright says that half of all the entries for the database come from only five of the EU’s 28 member states and one international partner. He did not identify the countries or international partner.
Turkey’s president says the attacks in Paris are spurring hatred against Muslims and refugees in Europe and is urging leaders to call for “common sense” in their countries.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday there were reports of attacks against Muslims and a “hardening of stance” against refugees in the wake of the Paris attacks — developments he said would only serve to “deepen the tragedy”.
Erdogan said: “If we do not thwart racist attacks and fanatical movements, new and dangerous tragedies will become inevitable. Racism united with hatred of Islam is the greatest calamity and danger.”
The Turkish leader said that as a Muslim he was condemning the attacks by the Islamic State group and he urged all other Muslim leaders to do the same.
The director of the European Union’s police coordination organization is warning that the Paris attacks are “a very serious escalation” of the terror threat in Europe and a statement of intent by the Islamic State group.
Europol Director Rob Wainwright says the attacks last Friday that left 129 dead in Paris were “a clear statement of intent by ISIS to export its brutal brand of terrorism to Europe.”
He says Paris was the first time Europe has witnessed an attack similar to a 2008 assault by militants in the Indian city of Mumbai, combining indiscriminate shooting with suicide bombers.
Wainwright was speaking Thursday at a European Parliament debate on the aftermath of the Paris attacks.
The White House says U.S. President Barack Obama still plans to travel to Paris for the upcoming climate talks.
Deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes says the U.S. has great confidence in France’s government and a very close intelligence relationship with French security officials.
He says the U.S. has been actively sharing intelligence with France since the attacks last week.
Rhodes says the French will be the ones to make determinations about how to provide security for the climate summit.
Obama is currently scheduled to be in Paris on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1. It’s unclear whether the dates will be extended or adjusted in light of the attacks.
Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann is calling for more intensive border checks of migrants in the wake of the Paris attacks, but says the closing of borders is out of the question.
Speaking Thursday morning on Germany’s ARD television ahead of meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel, Faymann said to close the borders “would be the end of Schengen and the European idea,” referring to the so-called Schengen Zone of passport-free travel.
Most important, he said, is to work to end the violence in Syria that is causing so many people to flee, as well as improving refugees’ situations in Turkey and registration measures in Greece.
He says “we cannot solve the problem at either the Austrian or the German borders.”
Following Paris, he says, European countries also need to better coordinate intelligence-sharing.
The French Interior Ministry and Paris prosecutor’s office say it remains unclear whether the suspected mastermind of last week’s Paris attacks has been killed or is still at large.
Officials in each agency said Thursday that authorities are working on determining whether 27-year-old Belgian Abdelhamid Abaaoud was among those killed in a chaotic and bloody raid on an apartment in a Paris suburb Wednesday. The officials were not authorized to be publicly named speaking about an ongoing investigation.
Police launched the operation after receiving information from tapped phone calls, surveillance and tipoffs suggesting that Abaaoud was holed up there.
Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins said the identities of the dead are still being investigated, but that neither Abaaoud nor another fugitive, Salah Abdeslam, is in custody.
—By Angela Charlton
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls is warning that the associates of extremists who targeted France last week could use chemical and biological weapons, as he urged Parliament to extend a state of emergency.
Valls presented a bill extending the state of emergency declared after Friday’s attacks for another three months to the lower house of Parliament on Thursday. It goes to the upper house Friday.
Valls said “terrorism hit France, not because of what it is doing in Iraq and Syria … but for what it is.”
He added, “we know that there could also be a risk of chemical or biological weapons.”
Authorities in Belgium have launched six raids in the Brussels region linked to Paris suicide bomber Bilal Hadfi.
An official in the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office said that the raids were taking place in Molenbeek and other areas of Brussels.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing.
Bilal Hadfi has been identified as one of three attackers at the Stade de France stadium. The raids are centering on “his entourage,” the official said.
—By Raf Casert in Brussels
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel says he wants to amend the 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 told lawmakers.
Belgian Prime minister Charles Michel has announced a package of additional anti-terror measures in the wake of the attacks in Paris.
Michel said 400 million euros ($427 million) would be earmarked to expand the anti-terror fight
He told legislators in a special announcement that personnel involved in security would be increased, and said special attention would be paid to eradicating messages of hate.
Michel also called for more international cooperation.
A Turkish government official says authorities have deported some among a group of eight Moroccan nationals who were detained at Istanbul’s main airport, while others are still being investigated.
The men were detained on arrival at Ataturk Airport on Wednesday and interviewed by a team of profilers for possible links to Islamic State militants.
The official said in an email sent late Wednesday that authorities have not been able to confirm that the group was attempting to travel to Germany illegally by posing as refugees, as suggested by Turkish media.
The official, who cannot be named because of government rules, said Turkish profiling teams have questioned some 4,700 suspects in the past two years. Around 1,300 people were denied entry into Turkey, while more than 2,300 were deported.
— By Suzan Fraser in Ankara
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius is urging the international community to do more to eradicate the Islamic State group after deadly attacks in Paris that rattled the Western world.
Fabius, speaking on France-Inter radio Thursday, said the group “is a monster. But if all the countries in the world aren’t capable of fighting against 30,000 people (IS members), it’s incomprehensible.”
The group claimed responsibility for Friday’s attacks on a rock concert, Parisian cafes and France’s national stadium that killed at least 129 people.
France has stepped up its airstrikes against extremists in Syria since the attack, and French President Francois Hollande is going to Washington and Moscow next week to push for a stronger international coalition against IS.