Manhunt continues after Paris attacks architect killed

Search is on for French suspect Salah Abdeslam after key planner killed in operation.

French police continued the search on Friday for a suspect on the run one week since the Paris attacks after it was announced the alleged planner was killed in a raid. 

French police are still looking for Salah Abdeslam, 26, after the attacks that killed 129 people and wounded at least 350 others.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls said France does not know if Abdeslam is in France or Belgium, or if more groups involved with the gunmen are still at large.

 French PM warns of threat from other groups

“The threat is there. We don’t know at this point in the investigation if there are groups, individuals, who are directly linked to the attack on Friday evening,” Valls told France 2 television. “We don’t know yet one can imagine. That’s why the threat is still there.”

Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the alleged architect of the atrocity, was killed in a police raid in the Saint-Denis area, the Paris prosecutor announced on Thursday.

“Abdelhamid Abaaoud has just been formally identified … as having been killed during the raid” in the northern Paris suburb on Wednesday, Francois Molins said in a statement. 

The confirmation of his death followed fingerprint analysis, Molins added.

Abaaoud, a 27-year-old Belgian national of Moroccan origin, allegedly orchestrated the attacks claimed by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

RELATED: Hollande call for grand coalition to defeat ISIL

Police originally thought he was in Syria, but investigations led them to a home in Saint-Denis and heavily armed officers stormed the building before dawn, triggering a firefight and multiple explosions.

Three police officials said a woman who died in the raid was Abaaoud’s cousin. One said Hasna Aitboulahcen, 26, is believed to have detonated a suicide vest after a brief conversation with police officers.

 Parisians defiant after attack on their homeland

The official confirmed an audio recording, punctuated by gunshots, in which an officer asked: “Where is your boyfriend?” and she responded: “He’s not my boyfriend.” Then loud bangs are heard.

The exact relationship between Abaaoud, whose body was reportedly riddled with wounds, and Aitboulahcen was not clear.

Bernard Cazeneuve, the French interior minister, said Abaaoud had been involved in at least four previous foiled attacks, including an incident in August when  a gunman tried to kill passengers on a high-speed train between Amsterdam and Paris.

“[The cases] would have all involved attacks perpetrated by European jihadists sent to France… Europe must coordinate itself and defend itself against this threat,” Cazeneuve said, calling for a more effective arms strategy on the continent. “The fight against terrorism is crucial.”

Elsewhere, Belgian police arrested nine people in Brussels – seven of them linked to French national stadium bomber Bilal Hadfi – during nine raids connected to the Paris attacks, the federal prosecutor’s office said.

Emergency powers in place:
  • Administrative arrest possible without judiciary mandate
  • House arrest on direct order from the PM
  • Police search allowed all day and night (whereas normally it\’s forbidden at night until 6am)
  • Bars, music venues, gathering venues can be ordered closed by a state representative

PM warns of ‘chemical attack’

Emergency powers allow police arrests without warrants and the ability to close public venues.

Valls, the prime minister, can order people deemed “threats to national security” to be held under house arrest, and have their passports or national identification cards seized.

“This bill will also encourage the closing of mosques if they become too radical,” Valls said. “This bill is the answer for the right of a free country facing chaos.” 

The announcement came after Valls warned of a possible attack using “chemical or biological weapons”.

“We must not rule anything out, there is also the risk from chemical or biological weapons,” he said on Thursday, though he did not cite any specific intelligence on such a threat.

Emergency powers could include:
  • House arrest can be extended to any person deemed “a threat to national security”
  • Passports and identification cards can be seized, under what an adviser to the PM considers “prevention more than repression”
  • In case of violating house arrest, a possible sentence of three months in jail and $48,000 fine
  • The military can undertake criminal investigations
  • A curfew can be ordered by a state representative

Also on Thursday, the lower house of the French parliament voted to extend the state of emergency for three months, following advice from Francois Hollande, the French president, given in a  speech to parliament  earlier in the week.

Amid heightened security concerns, the French government has banned planned marches during the international climate talks to be held in Paris from November 29 to December 12.

Environmental activists have criticised the decision. The marches were expected to attract more than 200,000 people to put pressure on governments to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

“The government can prohibit these demonstrations but it cannot stop the mobilisation and it won’t prevent us strengthening the climate movement. Our voices will not be silenced,” Nicolas Haeringer, a French campaigner with the group said in a statement.

About 118 world leaders are expected to attend the UN COP21 summit, which is meant to nail down a binding global deal to limit rising carbon emissions.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies


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