Paris Attacks Mastermind Killed in police operation
PARIS (AFP) – The Islamic State terrorist suspected of orchestrating the Paris attacks was killed in a major police raid in the French capital, prosecutors confirmed Thursday, raising troubling questions about a breakdown in intelligence and European border security.
Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian of Moroccan origin linked to a series of extremist plots in Europe over the past two years, died in Wednesday s assault by police on an apartment in northern Paris.
The 28-year-old was thought to have been in Syria — where he had boasted of planning attacks on the West — and his presence in France will renew debate about Europe s border controls and monitoring of fighters returning from the war-torn country.
Confirmation that such a high-profile figure from the Islamic State (IS) group had slipped undetected into France prompted a sharp response from Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, who demanded Europe step up its response to the terror threat.
He said Paris had received “no information” from other European countries about his arrival on the continent.
“It is urgent that Europe wakes up, organizes itself and defends itself against the terrorist threat,” Cazeneuve told reporters.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls said some of the attackers had taken advantage of Europe s migrant crisis to “slip in” unnoticed and warned the cherished passport-free Schengen zone would be in danger if the bloc did not improve border controls.
Abaaoud was the subject of an international arrest warrant issued by Belgium — where a court had in July sentenced him in absentia to 20 years in prison for recruiting militants in Syria.
But it was only three days after the Paris bloodbath that “intelligence services of a country outside Europe indicated they had knowledge of his presence in Greece”, Cazeneuve said, without specifying which country.
Abaaoud was also checked by police at Cologne-Bonn airport on his way to Istanbul in early 2014, German officials said, but was allowed to go as they had no indication he should be stopped.
Eight arrests were made in Wednesday s massive raid in Saint Denis, but another key suspect, Salah Abdeslam, remains unaccounted for.
Abdeslam is thought to be one of the only surviving members of the group of assailants behind the Paris attacks. His suicide-bomber brother Brahim Abdeslam blew himself up at a cafe without killing anyone.
Chilling CCTV footage has emerged in which a gunman can be seen pointing his weapon at a woman crouching under a table outside the cafe — but it jams, allowing her to flee.
A video has also emerged from the bloody scene outside La Bonne Biere restaurant just seconds after it came under fire, with bodies seen lying on the ground as people rushed to help the victims. “Its carnage”, a voice can be heard saying off-camera.
French lawmakers on Thursday voted to extend an extraordinary package of security measures for three months as Valls warned of “the risk of chemical or biological weapons”.
The measures include allowing police to carry weapons when they are off duty and use them in the event of an attack. French MPs also voted to let the government block websites and social media accounts promoting or inciting terrorist acts.
French President Francois Hollande also ordered French air strikes against IS terrorists be stepped up in Iraq as well as Syria.