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‘New terror attacks being planned in France, other European countries’

French police have raided homes of suspected Islamists overnight across the country in the aftermath of the Paris shootings, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on Monday.

Paris under attack Updated: Nov 16, 2015 14:14 IST
Paris attacks

Women comfort each other in front of a memorial set-up along a police cordon close to the Bataclan concert hall on November 15, 2015, two days after a series of deadly attacks. (AFP)

The French Prime Minister has said that authorities believe new terror attacks are being planned in France and in other European countries following the carnage in Paris.

“We know that operations were being prepared and are still being prepared, not only against France but other European countries too,” Manuel Valls said on Monday.

France would be living with the threat of terror attacks “for a long time”, he said.

He said he was struck by the fact that young people had been targeted in Friday’s attacks on a concert hall, bars and restaurants and outside the Stade de France stadium that left 129 people dead.

“Once again the terrorists have attacked France, the French people, young people. Many young people are dead,” he said.

Raids conducted, dozens arrested

Meanwhile, French police carried out “more than 150” raids on suspected Islamists since the attacks on Paris, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Monday, as a source in the southeastern city of Lyon said an arsenal of weapons had been seized there.

Police sources in Paris said “several dozen” pre-dawn raids were carried out in French cities on Monday, including in Bobigny, an eastern suburb of the capital.

Thirteen raids were carried out around the southeastern French city of Lyon, a local police source said.

They led to five arrests and the seizure of “an arsenal of weapons,” including a rocket launcher, a Kalashnikov assault rifle, bulletproof vests, handguns and combat gear, the source said.

Police also carried out raids in Toulouse in southwestern France, where at least three people were arrested, according to the local prosecutor’s office.

In the Alpine city of Grenoble, according to the local newspaper Le Dauphine Libere, at least half a dozen people were arrested and guns and money were seized.

Police have additional powers under a state of emergency declared after the coordinated attacks in Paris on Friday that left 129 people dead and more than 350 injured.

Read | Paris attacks: Hunt for attacker who got away, IS HQ bombed in Syria

Mourning the dead

France prepared to fall silent at noon Monday to mourn victims of the Paris attacks after its warplanes pounded the Syrian stronghold of Islamic State, the jihadist group that has claimed responsibility for the slaughter.

With a manhunt under way for suspects across Europe, French police released a photograph of a “dangerous” suspect also wanted in Belgium, where Friday’s bloodbath may have been planned.

France is to observe a minute’s silence at midday (1100 GMT), which the European Union has called on all member states to respect. In the United States, the Stars and Stripes will fly at half-mast at the White House until sunset Thursday.

President Francois Hollande will observe the silence at the Sorbonne University, in recognition of the large toll of young people among the 129 dead. Another 352 were injured, scores of them seriously.

The worst terror attack in French history has stunned the capital, less than 11 months after jihadists struck satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket, killing 17.

Despite a state of emergency, schools were to reopen Monday morning with museums, theatres and other cultural centres following at 1:00 pm after being shut in the wake of the attacks.

In another development, French warplanes pounded Islamic State’s Syrian stronghold Sunday in the nation’s first retaliation against the jihadists.

The raid destroyed an IS command post, a recruitment centre, a munitions depot and a “terrorist” training camp in Raqa, the defence ministry said.

The operation was coordinated with US forces by a dozen aircraft which took off from Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, it said.

Hollande has denounced the Paris attacks as an “act of war” and vowed to hit back against IS “without mercy”.

Read | Hundreds flee gathering in central Paris in apparent false alarm

‘Planned in Belgium’

French police said they were seeking 26-year-old Salah Abdeslam, who is said to be one of three brothers linked to the slaughter.

He is believed to be either on the run or one of the gunmen who died during the attacks, security sources said. He lived in Brussels, in the rundown immigrant neighbourhood of Molenbeek, where police have made several arrests.

The attacks “were prepared abroad and involved a team situated in Belgian territory and who may have benefited from... complicity in France,” French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said after talks Sunday with his Belgian counterpart, Jan Jambon.

“We are determined to act together... to dismantle the (jihadists’) networks”, he said.

Read | Paris attacks: Key suspects were stopped and released by police

Prosecutors said they believed three groups of attackers were involved in the carnage, and they have not ruled out that one or more assailants may still be at large.

The heavily-armed gunmen wearing explosives vests opened fire on crowds enjoying a Friday night at outdoor cafes and at the Bataclan concert hall, scene of the worst carnage where 89 people were killed as they watched a gig by the American group Eagles of Death Metal.

Seven of the gunmen and suicide bombers died in the bloodshed, with three blowing themselves up outside the Stade de France as France and Germany were playing an international football friendly.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls said authorities have so far identified 103 of the dead, who included journalists, lawyers, students, parents of small children. Most are under 40.

More than 25 foreigners from over a dozen countries were among the victims, with the first US fatality confirmed as California State University student Nohemi Gonzalez, 23, who died at the Petit Cambodge restaurant.