France bombs IS stronghold as Paris attacker escapes

Massive air attack targets Raqqa in northern Syria as hunt continues for Salah Abdeslam

Candles  next to a flower in  a broken window of Le Carillon restaurant in Paris,  the site of one of the attacks in the French capital on Friday. Photograph: Loic Venance/AFP/Getty Images

Candles next to a flower in a broken window of Le Carillon restaurant in Paris, the site of one of the attacks in the French capital on Friday. Photograph: Loic Venance/AFP/Getty Images

 

 

French aircraft conducted a “massive” bombardment of Islamic State’s stronghold in Raqqa, northern Syria, last night, 48 hours after eight jihadists dispatched by the group killed 129 people and wounded 352 others in Paris.

The defence ministry said 20 bombs targeted a command post and a training camp. President François Hollande had earlier vowed that “France will be merciless against the barbarians” of IS.

At the same time, French and Belgian authorities launched an international manhunt for a 26-year-old Frenchman who is believed to have been the “eighth terrorist” in the attacks.

The wanted man is Salah Abdeslam. He and his brother Brahim are believed to have opened fire on the Petit Cambodge, La Carillon and À La Bonne Bière cafes and restaurants in Paris’s 10th and 11th districts on Friday night, killing more than 40 people.

Brahim blew himself up with an explosives belt at the Comptoir Voltaire bar. Salah is believed to have jumped back into their Belgian-registered black Seat car and driven away.

Car found

The car was found in the eastern Paris suburb of Montreuil yesterday morning. It contained three Kalashnikovs.

Incredibly, Abdeslam had been stopped for a routine identity check at Cambrai, on the Belgian border, on Saturday and allowed to continue. Another brother, Mohamed, was taken into custody, but the terror suspect cannot be found.

Abdeslam may have fled to Belgium, where several of those involved in the attacks lived in the Molenbeek section of Brussels, known for its strong jihadist presence.

The identity of three of the killers, all French citizens, was established by forensic specialists who were able to take prints from fragments of fingers.

Six of the seven died when they detonated explosives vests. One was shot dead by French commandos.

Police earlier identified Ismael Omar Mostefai (29), as one of three assailants who killed 89 people at a rock concert by the California group Eagles of Death Metal at the Bataclan music hall. Though Mostefai’s name appeared on a terrorist watchlist, he was never imprisoned.

Paris prosecutor François Molins explained how three synchronised groups carried out seven attacks in the space of 33 minutes – the deadliest terrorist assault in Europe since 192 people were killed in the 2004 Madrid train bombings.

Three people were arrested in Molenbeek, the neighbourhood of Brussels that is 80 per cent north African Arab, on Saturday morning on suspicion of collusion in the attacks.

French prime minister Manuel Valls said 103 of the dead have been identified, while up to 30 more bodies remained to be identified.

Young people were heavily represented among the victims, who came from at least 15 countries including Algeria, Belgium, Brazil, Britain, Chile, France, Mexico, Morocco, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Tunisia and the US.

An Irish man is in a serious but stable condition in hospital in Paris after undergoing surgery for gunshot wounds he suffered during the concert at the Bataclan.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said it was contacted by a large number of concerned Irish people over the weekend, and asked that Irish citizens in France let their families know they are safe.

France will come to a standstill at noon today for a minute’s silence in memory of those killed.

At 4pm, Mr Hollande will deliver a speech to the National Assembly and Senate, in congress in Versailles, “to unite the nation”. Claude Bartolone, the speaker of the Assembly, said Mr Hollande will “explain the various decisions that must be taken to ensure the security of the French people”.

Pay homage Thousands of people gathered at the Place de la République and the sites of the Paris attacks to pay homage to the victims with flowers and votive candles.

The crowds scattered at least twice last night when loud noises were heard.

The exploding bulb of a street lamp emptied the Place de la République in minutes, but it filled again later.

French authorities said the three suicide bombers who died outside the Stade de France, killing one passerby, had intended to enter the stadium, which would have claimed many more victims.

The French government also said the COP21 UN Climate Conference to take place at Le Bourget on November 30th, will go ahead.

More than 100 heads of state are to attend the opening day, which will be transformed into a show of solidarity.