Published: Saturday 21st November 2015 by The News Editor
Shell-shocked Parisians have honoured the 130 victims of the terrorist attacks with candles and songs, knowing that at least one suspect is still at large and fearing other militants could be slipping through Europe’s porous borders.
Their poignant tributes came as the United Nations Security Council approved plans to redouble its efforts to prevent further attacks from extremists, backing a French-sponsored resolution designed to “to combat by all means this unprecedented threat”.
The council said IS “constitutes a global and unprecedented threat to international peace and security”.
Having established how the attacks against a football stadium, pavement cafes and a rock concert were carried out, a week after the deadliest attacks on France in decades, investigators are still piecing together details on the assailants and how they converged in the capital.
Prosecutors have determined through fingerprint checks that two of the seven attackers who died in the bloodshed entered Europe through Greece on October 3.
Previously they said only one attacker had been registered in Greece, an entry point for many of the hundreds of thousands of migrants seeking asylum in Europe. That man carried a Syrian passport naming him as Ahmad Al-Mohammad, though it is unclear whether it was authentic.
The five other attackers who died had links to France and Belgium. One of the seven dead has not been identified, while a manhunt is under way for one suspect who escaped, Salah Abdeslam, 26. French police stopped Abdeslam the morning after Friday’s attacks at the Belgian border but then let him go.
French police official Jean-Marc Falcone was unable to say if Abdeslam, whose brother Brahim blew himself up in the attacks, could be back on French territory.
The suspected ringleader of the attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, was killed in a pre-dawn raid on Wednesday on an apartment in the northern Paris suburb of Saint-Denis, along with Hasna Aitboulahcen, 26, who said she was his cousin.
Prosecutors said yesterday that a third person was killed in the raid but did not release the identity.
They also said Aitboulahcen had not blown herself up with a suicide vest, as initially believed, which suggests the body parts collected after the raid belonged to the third, unidentified, person.
Meanwhile Belgium’s national Crisis Centre raised its terrorism alert to its highest level in the Brussels region.
The centre’s website said it had raised the threat level to Level 4, which indicates a “serious and immediate threat”.
Belgium has filed terror charges against a third suspect relating to the Paris attacks – participation in terrorist attacks and participation in the activities of a terrorist organisation. Two other suspects are already behind bars facing similar charges.
In Brussels, European interior and justice ministers vowed to tighten border controls to make it easier to track the movements of jihadis with European passports traveling to and from warzones in Syria.
“We must move swiftly and with force,” French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve said. “Europe owes it to all victims of terrorism and those who are close to them.”
Mr Cazeneuve said the 28-nation bloc must move forward on a long-delayed system for collecting and exchanging airline passenger information, data he said was vital “for tracing the return of foreign fighters” from Syria and Iraq.
Highlighting how easily some Islamic militants seem to be able to move in and out of Europe, French officials say they do not know when and how Abaaoud, a 28-year-old Belgian of Moroccan descent, entered France. They believed he was in Syria until receiving a tip-off on Monday that he was in France.
Abaaoud was wanted in Belgium where he had been convicted in absentia of recruiting foreign fighters for the Islamic State (IS) group and kidnapping his brother, who he persuaded to join him in Syria at 13.
According to Moroccan news site Le360.ma, which has close ties to the royal palace, it was Morocco that gave the French information about Abaaoud’s whereabouts. France has said only it received the information from a country outside Europe.
French president Francois Hollande met Jordan’s King Mohammed VI yesterday and thanked him for “Morocco’s assistance in the wake of last Friday’s attacks”.
Marking a week since the carnage, some Parisians lit candles and paid tribute to the victims with silent reflection.
“I’m still reeling, because these are the neighbourhoods where we young people go out a lot, places we know well,” said student Sophie Garcon as she looked at tributes left outside the Le Carillon bar, where gunmen sprayed automatic weapons fire.
Others decided that enjoying themselves was the best way to defy the extremists. They sang and danced on Place de la Republique, in the heart of a trendy neighbourhood where scores of people were killed, most of them in the attack on the Bataclan concert hall.
Demonstrations have been banned in the city since the attacks, but Parisians have been spontaneously gathering all week outside the restaurants, cafes and concert hall hit in the attacks to leave flowers, light candles or hold quiet vigils.
France’s Senate voted yesterday to extend for three months a state of emergency, which expands police powers to carry out arrests and searches and allows authorities to forbid the movement of persons and vehicles at specific times and places.
Mr Hollande is also going to Washington and Moscow next week to push for a stronger international coalition against IS.
Of the more than 350 people wounded in the attacks, scores are in critical condition. Prime minister Manuel Valls said one more person had died, raising the death toll to 130, a tally that does not include any of the attackers.
In a speech to the Senate, Mr Valls also urged the French to not let the attacks change their ways, saying “to resist is to keep on living, to go out”.
Published: Saturday 21st November 2015 by The News Editor