Manhunt for second fugitive after Paris attacks

Published: Wednesday 18th November 2015 by The News Editor

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A second terrorist believed to have escaped after the Paris massacres is being hunted after surveillance video indicated that three attackers carried out the shootings at one of the cafes.

Meanwhile a US official revealed that the suspected mastermind of Friday night’s attacks was part of an Islamic State (IS) cell American intelligence agencies had been tracking for months.

France and Russia also unleashed a new wave of air strikes against IS targets in Syria, while fears of further terror attacks deepened in Paris and beyond.

The Eiffel Tower closed to the public just a day after it had reopened and a football match between Germany and the Netherlands was cancelled due to a bomb threat just 90 minutes before kick-off.

IS militants claimed responsibility for the Friday the 13th attacks that targeted France’s national football stadium, a packed concert hall and popular restaurants and cafes in one of Paris’ trendiest neighbourhoods, killing 129 people and wounding more than 350.

French authorities had previously said that at least eight people were directly involved in the bloodshed: seven who died in the attacks and one who got away and slipped across the border to Belgium. But there have been gaps in officials’ public statements, which have never fully disclosed how many attackers took part in the deadly rampage.

Officials now believe at least one other attacker was involved.

The surveillance video, obtained by the Associated Press news agency, was among evidence authorities used in concluding that at least one other attacker was at large.

The brief clip shows two black-clad gunmen with automatic weapons calmly firing on the bar, then returning toward a waiting car, whose driver was manoeuvring behind them. Authorities believe the car is the same black Seat vehicle that was found on Saturday with three Kalashnikov machine guns inside.

Previously, officials had not specified how many people were involved in the attack on a bar in La Fontaine au Roi street, as well as the other nightspots in the same area.

Investigators have identified 27-year-old Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian of Moroccan descent, as the chief architect of the attacks. He is believed to be in IS-held territory in Syria.

A US official briefed on intelligence matters said Abaaoud was a key figure in an IS external operations cell that US intelligence agencies had been tracking for many months.

Analysts have been debating to what extent IS was devoting resources to external terrorist attacks as opposed to seeking to hold on to the territory it has seized in Iraq and Syria. A consensus is now emerging that the group is more focused on exporting terror than had been widely understood.

US intelligence agencies have some insights into who is involved in that effort, said the official. But their understanding is hampered by the many challenges of gathering intelligence in Syria, where the CIA does not have a regular presence on the ground.

The chairman of the Senate intelligence committee said it was likely that militants plotting the attacks in Syria, Belgium and France used encryption to hide their communications from authorities.

Senator Richard Burr said there was no direct evidence of encryption, but authorities had concluded it was used because they have uncovered no evidence of conversations among the plotters.

Speaking to reporters after a classified intelligence briefing, Mr Burr also said there was a “strong likelihood” the Paris attacks were directed, rather than just inspired, by IS in Syria.

The comments were the strongest public attribution yet by American officials. CIA director John Brennan said on Monday the attack bore “the hallmarks of terrorism carried out” by the IS group.

Ten French fighter jets attacked IS targets in Syria in a new wave of air strikes yesterday. Defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said France would have 36 warplanes in the region capable of carrying out strikes on IS targets once the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier reached the zone.

Nato members were sharing intelligence and working closely with France, alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg said.

In Moscow, Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered the missile cruiser Moskva, currently in the Mediterranean, to start co-operating with the French military on operations in Syria. His order came as Russian warplanes fired cruise missiles on militant positions in Syria’s Idlib and Aleppo provinces. IS militants have positions in Aleppo province, while the al Qaida-linked Nusra militant group is in Idlib.

Moscow has vowed to hunt down those responsible for blowing up a Russian passenger plane over Egypt last month, killing 224 people, mostly Russian tourists. IS militants have also claimed responsibility for that October 31 attack.

Published: Wednesday 18th November 2015 by The News Editor

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