Paris attack live: French official identifies Belgian national as suspected mastermind

French police announced seven arrests and hunted for more members of the sleeper cell that carried out the Paris attacks that killed 129 people.

By: Agencies | Updated: November 17, 2015 2:40 am
paris attacks, france attacks, Islamic state, france islamic state, islamic state france, france bombing, islamic state bombing, france syria bombing, france syria, world news French police patrol at the place de la Republique in Paris, France, Sunday Nov. 15, 2015, two days after over 120 people were killed in a series of shooting and explosions. (Source: AP)

A Belgian national named Abdelhamid Abaaoud, currently in Syria and believed to be one of Islamic State’s most active operators, is suspected of being behind Friday’s terror attacks in Paris, according to a source close to the French investigation.

“He appears to be the brains behind several planned attacks in Europe,” the source told Reuters of Abaaoud, adding he was investigators’ best lead as the person likely behind the killing of at least 129 people in Paris on Friday.

French police have raided homes of suspected Islamists overnight across the country in the aftermath of the Paris shootings, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on Monday.

Valls also said that French intelligence services had prevented several attacks since the summer and that police knew other attacks are being prepared in France as well as in the rest of Europe.

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“We are making use of the legal framework of the state of emergency to question people who are part of the radical jihadist movement…and all those who advocate hate of the republic,” Valls said on RTL radio.

Earlier, 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.

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, a Defense Ministry statement said. The jets launched from sites in Jordan and the Persian Gulf, in coordination with US forces.

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The arrest warrant for Salah Abdeslam, a 26-year-old born in Brussels, calls him very dangerous and warns people not to intervene if they see him.

Yet police already had him in their grasp early 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 theater where so many died.

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READ: First clues to 13/11 near home of concert hall killer in Paris suburb

READ: ‘I couldn’t sleep for two nights, I kept hearing screams in my head’

Three French police officials and a top French security official confirmed that officers let Abdeslam go after checking his ID. They spoke on condition of anonymity, lacking authorization to publicly disclose such details.

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Updates:

9:31 pm US & France streamlining intelligence sharing; ISIS is the face of evil: Barack Obama

9:31 pm Our airstrikes have been intensified; We are taking on ISIS commanders & leaders: Obama at G20 summit

8:40 pm Belgium charges two with terrorism over Paris attacks: Prosecutor

8:20 pm  Belgium’s federal prosecutor’s office says that five of the seven people who were detained over the weekend because of possible links to the Paris attacks have been released.

6:06 pm Islamic State warned in a new video that countries taking part in air strikes against Syria would suffer the same fate as France, and threatened to attack in Washington.

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5:30 pm: G-20 leaders in silent tribute to Paris victims.

4:50 pm: The French president, schoolchildren, bystanders have held a minute of silence to honor the 129 people killed in the country’s worst attacks in decades.

4:40 pm: Belgian police launch new operation after Paris attacks.

4:30 pm: French police carried out 170 raids; arrests 23 people.

4:00 pm: Senior Turkish official says authorities flagged one of the suicide bombers in the Paris attacks to their French counterparts back in 2014 but received no response.

3:40 pm: Belgian national Adelhamid Abaaoud, currently in Syria, suspected to have ordered Paris attacks, said source close to investigation.

3:20 pm: Senior Turkish official says one of suspects in Paris attacks entered Turkey in 2013, no record of him leaving.

3:15 pm: French official identifies suspected mastermind of Paris attacks as Belgian Abdelhamid Abaaoud.

2:50 pm: Fingerprints from Paris bomber match man registered in Greece, says French prosecutor.

1.30 pm: France 24 is reporting that the country will observe a minute silence today afternoon in respect to those killed in Paris attacks.

1.00 pm: French police seize ‘arsenal’ of weapons in pre-dawn raids on suspected Islamists.

12.20 pm: This image made from video released by the French Army Communications Audiovisual office (ECPAD) shows a French army jet taking off from a site in Jordan to strike at Islamic State group targets.

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12.00 pm: International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach insisted on Sunday that the Paris terror attacks, which left 129 people dead, “will absolutely” not affect the French capital’s bid to host the 2024 Olympics.

11.30 am: Here is a recap of what happened last night.

11.10 am: Paris museums will reopen today, two days after they were shuttered due to heightened security following the Friday the 13th terrorist rampage across the capital.

The Louvre, the Musee d’Orsay and other museums have been closed all weekend following Friday’s terror attacks that killed 129. Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin said all museums in Paris and nearby towns will reopen Monday at 1200 GMT, following a minute of silence being observed across France in memory of the victims at 1100 GMT.

11.00 am: Alabama Governor Robert Bentley has announced he is refusing Syrian refugees relocating to his state.

In a news release Sunday Bentley said, “After full consideration of this weekend’s attacks of terror on innocent citizens in Paris, I will oppose any attempt to relocate Syrian refugees to Alabama through the US Refugee Admissions Program. As your Governor, I will not stand complicit to a policy that places the citizens of Alabama in harm’s way.”

10.50 am: A South African woman who was at the Eagles of Death Metal concert shared her ordeal in a vivid Facebook post the day after the attack in Paris. Her post was liked by over 2 million Facebook users including the site’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his sister Randi Zuckerberg.

10.15 am: French foreign minister Laurent Fabius says France had the “legitimacy” to take action against Islamic State after Friday’s terror attacks in Paris.

Fabius said Sunday on the sidelines of the G20 sumit in Turkey that the decision to conduct airstrikes in Raqqa against Islamic State targets was a “political” one and that France had to be “present and active” following Friday’s attacks which killed 129 people.

9.40 am: Read how the world leaders reacted to the horrific attack in Paris.

Obama to Netanyahu: World leaders condemn dastardly terror attacks in Paris

9.15 am: The French media is reporting that three were taken into custody in a Monday morning crackdown in Toulouse.

8.58 am: A look at the front pages of newspapers from around Europe.

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8.50 am: Egyptians paid tribute to victims of attacks in Paris and Beirut and the Russian plane on Sunday by illuminating the Great Pyramid of Giza with the Egyptian, French, Lebanese and Russian Flags.

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8.45 am: Mumbai’s iconic Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus lit up on Sunday in French colours, but sadly they got the French national flag wrong. Here is an image from our staff photographer Vasant Prabhu:

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8.30 am: Analysts believe that the terror attacks will affect major markets as trading resumes today.

8.15 am:  European Union interior ministers will hold crisis talks in Brussels on Friday to tackle security issues raised by the deadly Paris attacks, announced Luxembourg, which currently holds the EU presidency.

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