Accessibility links

'New Team of Terrorists Neutralized' in Raid, Paris Official Says

  • Lisa Bryant

Hooded police officers detain a man in Saint-Denis, near Paris, after a raid on an apartment where the suspected mastermind of last week's terror attacks in the French capital was believed to have been holed up, Nov. 18, 2015.

Hooded police officers detain a man in Saint-Denis, near Paris, after a raid on an apartment where the suspected mastermind of last week's terror attacks in the French capital was believed to have been holed up, Nov. 18, 2015.

The suspected Islamist militants targeted in a Paris police raid early Wednesday were a terror unit capable of planning a new attack, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said.

"A new team of terrorists was neutralized, and all indications are that given their arms, their organizational structure and their determination, the commando could have struck," Molins said.

The raid took place about 2 kilometers from the soccer stadium that was one of the sites attacked last week.

Molins confirmed that Wednesday's raid was ordered after phone taps and surveillance information led authorities to believe Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected mastermind behind Friday's attacks, might have been in the apartment in Saint-Denis.

Not in custody

While he did not confirm that Abaaoud was at the apartment in the central part of town, Molins said Abaaoud, a Belgian national of Moroccan descent, was not among the eight people arrested during the operation.

Paris Assailants, Suspects

Status: Captured

Name: Salah Abdeslam
Background: French national born in Belgium
Investigation: Considered eighth attacker; believed to be driver of car outside the Bataclan

Status: Dead

Name: Abdelhamid Abaaoud
Background: Belgian of Moroccan origin
Investigation: Ringleader of Paris attacks

Name: Ibrahim Abdeslam
Background: French citizen
Investigation: Suicide bomber at cafe on Boulevard Voltaire; brother of Salah Abdeslam

Name: Samy Amimour
Background: Born in Paris
Investigation: One of three suicide bombers at Bataclan concert hall

Name: Bilal Hadfi
Status: Dead
Background: Nationality unknown, living in Belgium prior to attacks
Investigation: One of three suicide bombers at soccer stadium

Name: Ismael Omar Mostefai
Background: Chartres, France
Investigation: Suicide bomber at Bataclan concert hall

Name: Ahmad al Muhammad (falsified name)
Background: Unknown; emergency passport said he was from Syria
Investigation: Suicide bomber at soccer stadium; emergency passport found on his body

Name: Unknown
Background: Unknown
Investigation: Suicide bomber at soccer stadium; carried falsified Turkish passport

Name: Unknown
Background: Unknown
Investigation: Suicide bomber at Bataclan concert hall; has not yet been identified

"As of now, the identities of those who were arrested in the building are not yet formally known, but I can specify that Abdelhamid Abaaoud and [fugitive attacker] Salah Abdeslam are not among those we have in custody," he said.

Molins told reporters that investigators were working on determining the identities of those killed and arrested during the seven-hour raid. Three police officers also were injured, and a police dog was killed.

He said that the raid was of "extreme difficulty" and that nearly 5,000 rounds of munitions were fired into the apartment.

Molins said at least two people were killed in the operation. Early reports said that a woman who detonated an explosives vest was killed and that another body was found in the rubble, riddled with so many bullets that it was not immediately unidentifiable.

'At war' with terrorism

Shortly after Wednesday's siege ended, President Francois Hollande said France was “at war” with terrorism, but he warned against overreactions.

“No xenophobic, anti-Semite, anti-Muslim act must be tolerated," he said.

Hollande urged people to defy terrorists by resuming life in full, and he promised to increase security to ensure popular sites could reopen. France will "remain a country of freedoms," he said.

French President Francois Hollande delivers a speech during a meeting with French mayors in Paris, Nov. 18, 2015.

French President Francois Hollande delivers a speech during a meeting with French mayors in Paris, Nov. 18, 2015.

Speaking to a gathering of French mayors, Hollande said he wanted to build a large coalition to target the Islamic State militants, and he outlined a series of measures to fight the group, which has claimed responsibility for Sunday's attacks.

Hollande is scheduled to discuss ways to intensify the campaign targeting IS with U.S. President Barack Obama next week in Washington, and is to meet November 26 with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

He has proposed modifying the French constitution to better deal with terrorism and other crises, such as allowing dual nationals to be stripped of their French citizenship if they have been convicted of terrorism.

Hollande also said a bill to extend France's state of emergency for three months included a measure that would enable authorities to close "any association or gathering," including community groups and assemblies at mosques, where people are "glorifying terrorism" or encouraging people to carry out terrorist acts.

A parliamentary vote on the measure, which has drawn criticism from rights advocates, is expected by the end of the week.

In the meantime, the French government has canceled two rallies planned during the upcoming climate conference.

However, Hollande said France would keep its promise to take in 30,000 refugees over the next two years — but their backgrounds would be checked thoroughly to ensure they posed no threats.

Syrian airstrikes

French warplanes mounted a third day of airstrikes against IS in Syria, targeting the militants' de facto capital in Raqqa. The Defense Ministry said 10 of its jets took part in the latest airstrikes and bombed two command centers.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Wednesday that 33 Islamic State members had been killed by French and other military airstrikes in the past three days.

Hollande said the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle was being sent to aid French military operations against the Islamic State group.

Probe continues

Fugitive Salah Abdeslam and his brother, Ibrahim, who died during Sunday's attacks, rented three cars from Belgium to carry out the Paris operations, police said. The vehicles were found in different spots around the capital and outskirts, with a stash of assault weapons.

An investigator works outside the Bataclan concert hall in Paris, Nov. 14, 2015.

An investigator works outside the Bataclan concert hall in Paris, Nov. 14, 2015.

Police also found a cellphone in a garbage can near the Bataclan music hall, where the bloodiest attack took place, with a text message reading, “Let’s go.”

French police have carried out 414 raids, made 60 arrests and seized 75 weapons since Friday.

In addition, 118 other people have been placed under house arrest, another of the new powers permitted under France's state of emergency that was declared Saturday.

Officials said Wednesday that all 129 victims of Friday's attacks had been identified.

VOA's Mia Bush and Chris Hannas contributed to this report from Washington.

Show comments

XS
SM
MD
LG