France is at war: Hollande to intensify military ops in Syria
In a rare address to the congress of the National Assembly and the Senate in Versailles, Hollande said France will step up strikes in Syria, calling it “the biggest factory of terrorists the world has known.”
“We are not in a war of civilizations. These assassins don’t represent a civilization. We are at war with jihadist terrorism which threatens the whole of the world and not only France,” he declared.
“Our democracy has triumphed before over adversaries that were much more formidable than these cowards,” Hollande said.
“In Syria, we’re looking for the political solution to the problem, which is not Bashar Assad. Our enemy in Syria is IS,” he said.
The French president demanded a rapid implementation of “co-ordinated and systematic controls” of the EU’s internal and external borders, stressing that it will patrol its national borders if Europe does not comply. This would mean dismantling the European Union.
He stated that he was extending the current state of emergency by an additional three months, adding that the French constitution must be amended for crisis situations, allowing dual citizens to be stripped of their French citizenship and barred from the country if they are a terrorism risk.
The aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle will set sail for the shores of Syria on Thursday, the French President Francois Hollande said during a rare address to the congress of the National Assembly and the Senate in Versailles.
Man on the run ‘arrested’; mastermind behind attacks named
Amid conflicting reports on the arrest of Paris carnage suspect Salah Abdeslam during raids in Brussels suburb of Molenbeek, notorious as an Islamist hotspot, investigators Monday identified the alleged sponsor and mastermind of Friday’s massacre as Abdelhamid Abaaoud.
While RTL radio earlier reported the arrest of Abdeslam, Belgian broadcaster RTBF cited a federal prosecutor as saying the man arrested in the Brussels district of Molenbeek was not him.
On Sunday, French and Belgian authorities released a photo and issued an international arrest warrant for 26-year-old Abdeslam, saying he is very dangerous and warning the public not to directly intervene if they see him.
Abdeslam was raised in Molenbeek. The alleged mastermind of the massacre, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, is also said to be from the same Brussels district.
According to some reports, shots were hear during the raid. About a hundred police officers and a fire truck were been deployed at the scene, La Libre Belgique newspaper said.
At least one person has been arrested during the raid, DH newspaper reported.
The ‘butcher’ of Islamic Republic
The alleged mastermind of the Paris attacks Abdelhamid Abaaoud, 27, locally known as the “butcher” of the Islamic State group, is said to be a Belgian national who has carried out several executions, RTL said citing investigating authorities.
Abaaoud is said to be from the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek, notorious for being an Islamist hotspot. This is the same area where another suspect in the Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, was raised.
The local DH newspaper said he may be of Moroccan origin.
In January, Abaaoud’s name was mentioned in a series of planned attacks across Belgium. Later, he appeared to be the sponsor of that terror campaign.
According to DH, he was one of the leaders of terrorist cells in the town of Verviers, near the Belgian border with Germany.
Abaaoud’s cellphone is reportedly Greek. According to an investigation carried out earlier this year, his trail was lost in Greece and since then has gone cold.
It also turned out that two identified terrorists behind the Paris attacks, both Syrian nationals, entered Europe through Greece several months ago.
Attacks organised from Syria: French PM
Earlier, as French war planes pounded Islamic State (IS) positions in Syria and police conducted 150 anti-terror raids across France, Prime Minister Manuel Valls told RTL that the Paris attacks were organized and planned from IS-controlled territory in Syria.
In an interview with the radio station, Valls said more terrorist attacks are still being prepared and the jihadists would target not just France, but also other European nations.
“We will have to live with the threat of new terrorist acts for a long time. Terrorism may bring new strikes, even if some of the attacks were thwarted… Terrorist acts may be repeated in the next weeks or months and we need to be prepared for them,” he said.
“We will respond blow for blow,” Valls said. “We will act, we will strike and we will win.”
It is crucial to fight against those spreading hatred in France regardless of religious beliefs, but there must be respect for common values, he said.
“Many clerics of hatred have been deported from the country…and we will continue to do this. It’s necessary to pursue those who spread hatred… You can be a Christian, a Jew, or a Muslim, but common values must be respected. We need to be strong and united and continue the fight against terrorism because we are a strong and impervious people,” he said.
He also confirmed that police conducted more than 150 anti-terror raids following the attacks.
Pre-dawn raids lead to arrests, arms seizure
Several dozen pre-dawn raids were carried out by police in French cities Monday, including in Bobigny, an eastern suburb of Paris.
Thirteen raids were carried out around the southeastern French city of Lyon.
They led to five arrests and the seizure of “an arsenal of weapons,” including a rocket launcher, a Kalashnikov assault rifle, bulletproof vests, handguns and combat gear.
Police also carried out raids in Toulouse in southwestern France, where at least three people were arrested, according to the local prosecutor’s office.
In the Alpine city of Grenoble, according to the local newspaper Le Dauphine Libere, at least half a dozen people were arrested and guns and money were seized.
Police have additional powers under a state of emergency declared after the coordinated attacks in Paris.