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Paris jittery as PM Valls warns of chemical attack

Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Thursday warned of the terrorists behind last week’s Paris attacks using chemical or biological weapons as he urged MPs to agree to extend the emergency in France to three months.

world Updated: Nov 19, 2015 17:03 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times
Paris attack,Manuel Valls,Chemical and biological attack
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has warned of the danger of an attack in the country using chemical or biological weapons.(AFP)

Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Thursday warned of the terrorists behind last week’s Paris attacks using chemical or biological weapons as he urged MPs to agree to extend the emergency in France to three months.

Valls made the remarks against the backdrop of an outward calm in Paris that appeared to crack every now and then. A black suitcase left in a café in Rue de St Martin on Thursday morning sparked panic and calls to the police, who arrived promptly, but mostly it was a picture of normalcy in central Paris during the office rush-hour.

Security forces in Brussels and elsewhere in Europe were on the hunt for Friday’s attackers and their associates, while French investigators refused to confirm whether the mastermind of the carnage, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, was among the two dead in Wednesday’s massive raid in the suburb of Saint-Denis.

Seeking an extension of the state of emergency, 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.”

The prime minister’s office said Valls’ reference to possible use of chemical weapons was not “new information on the status of the threat, but just a realistic observation”. A spokesman said: “Middle East experts know that Daesh (Islamic State) seeks and uses chemical weapons. To not consider this possibility would be a mistake.”

Reports from Brussels said Bilal Hadfi, one of the three suicide bombers who struck outside 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.

In a related development, foreign minister Laurent Fabius said no marches would be allowed during the international climate talks scheduled here later this month, citing security concerns after Friday’s attacks that killed more than 130 people.

India is one of the key participants in the talks.

Fabius said in a statement 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.

There were plans by environmental activists 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.”

Didier Paillard, the mayor of Saint-Denis, the scene of Wednesday’s raid, called on the town’s citizens to gather in front of the Stade de France, the stadium that was one of the targets of Friday’s attacks, in tribute to the victims.

Officials also said all the victims of Friday’s attacks at a concert hall, cafes and the Stade de France stadium had been identified.

Read | 2 killed in Paris suburb raid; Hollande says won’t surrender to fear

Read | A battle has been won, not the war: French press after Paris raid

Read | No confirmation if Paris attacks ‘mastermind’ killed in raid

Full coverage: Paris under attack

First Published: Nov 19, 2015 15:35 IST