Paris attack: Police hunt ‘dangerous’ Salah Abdeslam

France conducts ‘massive’ air strikes against Islamic State in Syria two days Paris attacks

 

French police have released a wanted notice for one of the attackers who carried out a bloody wave of suicide bombings and shootings in Paris, as evidence mounted of a sophisticated, multinational terror operation with links to at least three European countries and the Middle East.

Salah Abdeslam, a 26-year-old man born in Brussels, is thought to be one of three brothers – all French nationals – living in Belgium who were directly involved in the attacks, the death toll of 129.

A further 352 people were injured and more than 90 are still in a critical condition.

French media reported that one of the brothers, named as Ibrahim, died in the onslaught, while another – as yet unnamed – was arrested in Brussels, where at least seven men have been detained since Saturday for questioning by Belgian police.

The third brother, thought to be Salah, who rented a Belgian-registered VW Polo parked outside the Bataclan concert hall where 89 people died, was stopped briefly by police on the French-Belgian border early on Saturday. He is now on the run, and described by police as dangerous.

Investigators earlier found three Kalashnikov automatic rifles and quantities of ammunition inside a second Belgian-registered car, a black Seat Leon, reportedly rented to one of the brothers and used in the onslaught before being abandoned on a street in the eastern Paris suburb of Montreuil.

Meanwhile, French fighter jets launched their biggest raids in Syria to date targeting the Islamic State’s stronghold in Raqqa, the defence ministry said.

The operation, carried out in co-ordination with US forces, struck a command centre, recruitment centre for jihadists, a munitions depot and a training camp for fighters, it said.

It also emerged on Sunday that Iraqi intelligence warned of imminent assaults by Islamic State on countries fighting against them in Iraq and Syria, “through bombings or assassinations or hostage taking in the coming days”, a day before the Paris attacks.

The New York Times, citing French and US officials, reported that the attackers communicated “at some point beforehand” with IS members in Syria.

Two more of the seven suicide bombers who died in the assaults – at the Stade de France, the packed Bataclan and a string of cafes and restaurants in the French capital’s north-eastern 10th and 11th arrondissements – had also been identified, police said, without confirming their names.

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The Paris public prosecutor, François Molins, said in a separate statement that at least three French suicide bombers were involved in the attacks, two of them living in the Belgian capital. The Washington Post named another suicide bomber as Bilal Hadfi, whose nationality was not known but who was thought to have fought in Syria.

In a sign of the jumpy atmosphere in Paris since the attacks, the deadliest in France since the second world war, crowds gathered at the Place de République scattered in panic on Sunday evening, prompting armed police to rush into the square.

It proved a false alarm, possibly caused by firecracker.

The eastern Aegean island of Leros has been a transit point this summer for thousands of refugees and migrants entering Europe. Greece confirmed the Syrian passport had been registered in Leros, but officials warned there was as yet no evidence linking it to the attacker, pointing out that the person holding it may not have been its legitimate owner, or it could be a fake.

Amid calls from several countries for the EU’s borders to be radically tightened in the face of the huge influx of refugees and migrants, the bloc’s president, Jean-Claude Juncker, stressed at a G20 summit in Turkey that the “man responsible for the attacks in Paris ... he is a criminal, and not a refugee and not an asylum seeker.”

The EU also said it would hold a special meeting of its interior and justice ministers next Friday to assess the impact of the Paris attacks. The French interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, asked for the meeting, saying “our battle against terrorism must be, more than ever, steadfast”, and must be reinforced at the European level.

In Germany, authorities were looking into a possible link to a 51-year-old Montenegrin man recently stopped with a car full of arms and explosives. The Bavarian interior minister, Joachim Herrmann, said officers found automatic weapons, dynamite, hand grenades and ammunition in the man’s car, along with a mobile phone and car GPS system indicating he was en route to Paris.

Announcing three days of national mourning and a national state of emergency, President François Hollande called the coordinated assault – “prepared, organised and planned overseas, with help from inside” – an “act of war” that must be countered “mercilessly”.

Notre Dame Cathedral, closed except for services, held a special commemorative mass on Sunday evening for the victims – who came from 15 different countries – their families and survivors. More than 20 victims of the attacks have yet to be identified, said the French prime minister, Manuel Valls.

Major sites including the Louvre and the Eiffel tower were also closed to visitors, while 10,000 troops were deployed across France in the country’s first national state of emergency since 1961, and armed police and soldiers patrolled the streets of Paris.

Mostefaï (29), who had a record of petty crime and had been flagged as a potential target for radicalisation as early as 2010, was identified by his severed finger, which was found among the wreckage of the Bataclan concert hall where three militants blew themselves up in the first suicide bombings on French soil late on Friday as security forces stormed the building.

Members of U2 laid flowers at a makeshift memorial near the hall on Sunday. The rock group had been due to perform in Paris on Saturday, but cancelled the concert following the attacks.

Homes and other addresses were being searched in the Aube region, the Essonne region south of Paris, where Mostefaï was born in the town of Courcouronnes, and in Eure-et-Loire, the region where he had attended a mosque in Lucé, close to Chartres. A French MP, Jean-Pierre Georges, said the attacker had lived in Chartres until 2012.

IS claimed responsibility for the latest attacks in a statement released online on Saturday, blaming France’s participation in US-led airstrikes against its forces and positions in Syria.

France “remains the main target of Islamic State … for having led the crusade, dared to insult our prophet, boasted of fighting Islam in France and for striking Muslims in the caliphate with their planes”, the group said in a statement.

Three of the suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the Stade de France after apparently trying to enter the national stadium where 80,000 people – including Hollande, who had to be evacuated – were watching a France-Germany football friendly.

Two more attackers detonated their explosive vests at the Bataclan, where a third was killed by police bullets. The seventh jihadi blew himself up not far from the venue.

A number of restaurants and cafes, their terraces packed on a mild November evening, were targeted by the gunmen: 12 victims died at a Cambodian restaurant near the Canal St Martin, while 19 were killed at another eatery on the nearby rue de Charonne.

Additional: Guardian service, Reuters