Paris attacks mastermind identified among those killed in police raid

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, Paris
  • Updated: Nov 19, 2015 21:27 IST
An undated picture purportedly shows 27-year-old Belgian IS group leading militant Abdelhamid Abaaoud. (AFP)

France marked a key victory in what President Francois Hollande has termed the “war” with the Islamic State when experts confirmed on Thursday the killing of Abdelhamid Abaooud, the suspected mastermind of last week’s attacks that cut down more than 130 people across Paris.

The National Assembly voted to extend the state of emergency in France to three months after Prime Minister Manuel Valls made a persuasive case before MPs, reminding them of the risk of IS using chemical and biological weapons.

Read: Paris jittery as PM Valls warns of chemical attack

A lone Buddhist monk beat a sombre drum at the iconic Place de la Republique, where thousands of people placed flowers and cards with emotional messages and lit candles in memory of those killed on Friday. The venue was ringed by security forces and a large media presence.

A monk stands in front of the iconic Place de la République in Paris. (HT Photo)

The prosecutor’s office confirmed Abaooud was among two people killed in the massive seven-hour raid by security forces in the suburb of Saint-Denis on Wednesday morning. His body, found riddled with bullets and shrapnel, was identified with fingerprint samples.

Abaaoud, a 27-year-old Belgian who reportedly boasted of mounting attacks in Europe for the IS, had been accused of orchestrating Friday’s coordinated bombings and shootings that targeted restaurants, a concert hall and a stadium.

Amid apprehension that French politics was turning right-wing after Friday’s attacks, President Francois Hollande tweeted: “France will respond to hate with fraternity, to terror with law, to fanaticism with hope. In being simply France.”

Thousands of people were expected at a tribute on Thursday evening at Stade de France, one of the targets of Friday’s attacks, after Didier Paillard, the mayor of Saint-Denis, called on citizens to gather in front of the stadium.

Security forces in Brussels and elsewhere in Europe were on the hunt for Friday’s attackers and their associates, as Valls told MPs: “What is new are the ways of operating; the ways of attacking and killing are evolving all the time. The macabre imagination of those giving the orders is unlimited. Assault rifles, beheadings, suicide bombers, knives or all of these at once. Carried out by individuals or commandos this time, particularly well organised.”

He added: “And today we must not rule anything out and I say of course with all the precautions which can be taken, we know and we have to bear in mind there is always the risk of chemical weapons or bacterial weapons.”

A black suitcase left in a café in Rue de St Martin on Thursday morning sparked some panic and calls to the police, who responded promptly, but mostly it was a picture of normalcy in central Paris.

Heavy media presence at Place de la Republique in Paris. (Prasun Sonwalkar/HT Photo)

Reports from Brussels said Bilal Hadfi, one of the three suicide bombers who targeted the Stade de France, was the focus of ongoing police raids seeking to find his associates. Hadfi was reported to be fighting in Syria as recently as July.

Foreign minister Laurent Fabius said in a statement no marches will be allowed during the international climate talks scheduled here later this month, citing security concerns. India is one of the key participants in the talks.

Fabius said all demonstrations organised in closed spaces or in places where security can easily be ensured could go ahead.

“However, in order to avoid additional risks, the government has decided not to authorise climate marches planned in public places in Paris and other French cities on Nov 29 and Dec 12,” the statement said.

Environmental activists plan to organise marches of nearly 20,000 people to pressure governments to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Emma Ruby-Sachs, deputy director of the campaign group Avaaz, said: “The police have just informed us that the tragic attacks in Paris have made the march there impossible. Now it’s even more important for people everywhere to march on the weekend of November 29 on behalf of those who can’t, and show that we are more determined than ever to meet the challenges facing humanity with hope, not fear.”

Meanwhile, all of the victims of Friday’s attacks had been identified, officials said.

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