Ringleader Behind Paris Attacks Killed in Raid

PARIS—France confirmed the suspected ringleader of last week’s Paris attacks was killed in a police raid Wednesday, and officials said he has been implicated in four of six foiled attacks in the country this year.

The Paris prosecutor’s office said the bullet-riddled body of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian national of Moroccan descent, was found inside an apartment targeted in the seven-hour police raid in Saint-Denis, a northern suburb of Paris. He was identified from fingerprints.

Abaaoud, who was 27 or 28 years old, had been linked to an April attack on a church in Villejuif, in which one person was killed, and to an August attack on a high-speed train that was thwarted by three young Americans.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said France only found out after last week’s attacks that Abaaoud was in Europe.

france_nov_19

Paris Assailants, Suspects

Status: Still at large

Name: Salah Abdeslam
Background: French national born in Belgium
Investigation: Considered eighth attacker; believed to be driver of car outside the Bataclan

Status: Dead

Name: Abdelhamid Abaaoud
Background: Belgian of Moroccan origin
Investigation: Ringleader of Paris attacks

Name: Ibrahim Abdeslam
Background: French citizen
Investigation: Suicide bomber at cafe on Boulevard Voltaire; brother of Salah Abdeslam

Name: Samy Amimour
Background: Born in Paris
Investigation: One of three suicide bombers at Bataclan concert hall

Name: Bilal Hadfi
Status: Dead
Background: Nationality unknown, living in Belgium prior to attacks
Investigation: One of three suicide bombers at soccer stadium

Name: Ismael Omar Mostefai
Background: Chartres, France
Investigation: Suicide bomber at Bataclan concert hall

Name: Ahmad al Muhammad (falsified name)
Background: Unknown; emergency passport said he was from Syria
Investigation: Suicide bomber at soccer stadium; emergency passport found on his body

Name: Unknown
Background: Unknown
Investigation: Suicide bomber at soccer stadium; carried falsified Turkish passport

Name: Unknown
Background: Unknown
Investigation: Suicide bomber at Bataclan concert hall; has not yet been identified

“It was only on November 16, after the Paris attacks, that an intelligence service outside Europe signaled that he had been aware of his presence in Greece,” he added, saying only the tip came from a country “outside of Europe.”

European plan

European Union interior ministers will hold crisis talks in Brussels Friday to discuss security issues raised by the Paris attacks.

Speaking to reporters Thursday, Cazeneuve urged EU ministers to act quickly and decisively to develop a plan to fight terrorism, including reiforcing borders and sharing intelligence information.

“Everyone must understand it is urgent that Europe wakes up, organizes itself and defends itself against the terrorist threat,” he said.

At least eight people were arrested in the raid, during which a woman identified as Abaaoud’s cousin died when she detonated her explosives-filled vest. Three police officers were wounded and a police dog was killed.

“A new team of terrorists was neutralized, and all indications are that, given their arms, their organizational structure and their determination, the commandos could have struck” again, Paris Prosector Francois Molins said after Wednesday’s police raid.

The operation took place about 2 kilometers from the football (soccer) stadium attacked last week during a match attended by President Francois Hollande.

State of emergency

French lawmakers voted Thursday to extend state of emergency declared after Friday’s attacks by three months. The National Assembly approved the measure, and the Senate is expected to vote on it Friday.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls said state-of-emergency rules are necessary because of the broad risk of terrorist attacks – including, he said, the possible use of chemical or biological weapons.

Emergency rules allow police officers to carry their weapons while off-duty.

President Francois Hollande said Wednesday the extension includes a provision that enables authorities to close “any association or gathering,” which includes mosques and community groups, where people are “glorifying terrorism” or encouraging people to carry out terrorist acts.

The bill has drawn criticism from rights activists.

Rob Wainwright, the head of the European Union’s police coordination agency, highlighted the scale of the Paris attacks Thursday, saying they mark “a very serious escalation” of terrorism in Europe and are a “clear statement” of the Islamic State group’s intention to bring its brutal brand of terror to the continent.

Paris Attacks: What We Know

Death toll

Assailants: Seven attackers directly involved in November 13 attacks in Paris were killed, three outside Bataclan concert hall, three outside Stade de France stadium, one in cafe killings.

Victims: 129 people killed; more than 350 injured

Saint-Denis raid: Two killed Wednesday, including suspected ringleader of attacks and his cousin, a female suicide bomber

Arrests

Saint-Denis raid: Eight people arrested Wednesday in Paris suburb

Belgium raids: Nine people, linked to stadium suicide bomber Bilal Hadfi, arrested Thursday in Brussels

Behind attacks: The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the November 13 attacks, saying they were in response to France’s involvement in anti-IS efforts in Syria and Iraq.

US, Russia visits: French President Francois Hollande, hoping to create “large coalition” focused entirely on the Islamic State group, will discuss ways to defeat the extremists on November 24 with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington, and on November 26 with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

European Union: Justice and Interior ministers will meet in Brussels Friday to discuss beefing up security and new counterterrorism measures. They are expected to back tighter security checks at external borders.

Daily Developments

French legislation: French lawmakers voted to extend by three months the state of emergency declared after last week’s attacks. The National Assembly approved the measure; the Senate is expected to vote on it Friday.

‘Most serious threat’: Rob Wainwright, head of European Union’s police force coordinating organization, tells European Parliament lawmakers Paris attack “represents the most serious terrorist threat faced in Europe for 10 years.”

European threat

Wainwright also said the EU database identifying and tracking suspected foreign fighters traveling between Europe and Syria and Iraq has doubled in size in the past year, and now contains about 10,000 names — 2,000 of those names have been positively confirmed as foreign fighters. He added, however, many believe the number of foreign fighters is likely closer to 5,000.

“It is reasonable to assume … that further attacks are likely,” Wainwright told a hearing in the European Parliament in Brussels Thursday.

A website linked to Islamic State has claimed responsibility for last week’s attack by suicide bombers and others armed with automatic weapons.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, speaking on France-Inter radio Thursday, urged the international community to do more to eradicate the Islamic State group. He said the extremist 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.”

Belgium raid

Belgian authorities launched their own raids Thursday in several parts of Brussels connected to Bilal Hadfi, who blew himself up outside the stadium. Officials said the operation focused on Hadfi’s family, friends and others linked to him.

Belgian police arrested nine people during nine raids connected to the Paris attacks, prosecutors said. Seven people were arrested during six raids linked to Hadfi, while the other two arrests were also linked to last Friday’s attacks, the federal prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

Belgium’s Prime Minister Charles Michel also announced a $427 million package of new security measures, including plans to jail militants who return from Syria, banning hate preachers and closing unregistered places of worship.

Michel fought back against criticism of his country’s security services after President Hollande said the Paris attacks were planned in Belgium.

“I do not accept the criticism seeking to disparage our security services, who do a difficult and tough job,” he said in an address to parliament.

Raids, arrests, airstrikes

French police said Wednesday they have carried out 414 raids and made 60 arrests, while seizing 75 weapons since last Friday.

In addition, 118 others have been placed under house arrest, another of the new powers permitted under France’s state of emergency that was declared Saturday.

Officials said Wednesday that all 129 victims of the attacks last Friday have been identified.

The French airstrikes have destroyed at least 35 Islamic State targets in Syria, French military spokesman Colonel Gilles Jaron said Thursday.

Jaron said French planes dropped about 60 bombs on six sites, and all the targets were Islamic State command centers or training sites. The aim, he said, is to weaken and disorganize the Islamic State group.

The airstrikes began Sunday in response to last week’s deadly attacks in Paris.

Source: Ringleader Behind Paris Attacks Killed in Raid

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