France: Paris terror cell ‘ready to carry out other attacks’

19th Nov 2015
France: Paris terror cell ‘ready to carry out other attacks’

PARIS (AA): At least two suspects were killed and eight arrested in Wednesday morning’s raid on an apartment linked to the gang behind the Paris terror attacks, the city’s chief prosecutor said.

The cell had established a base in Saint-Denis, a suburb of northern Paris, from where they were planning a further attack, Francois Molins told a news conference Wednesday evening.

In a separate strand of the investigation, Molins told how police had discovered a mobile phone in bin outside the Bataclan concert hall, where 89 people were killed on Friday night. A message on the phone read “We are off and we’re starting”. Investigators are working to establish the message recipient.

He said the “weaponry and level of organization” uncovered during the Saint-Denis raid left little doubt that a further attack was planned.

The “total war arsenal” found at the apartment in Rue de la Republique included Kalashnikov assault rifles and explosive belts.

Five police officers sustained minor injuries in a seven-hour siege that began with the sound of heavy gunfire and explosions at 4.30 a.m. local time (0330GMT).

“The investigation has progressed well and the assault last night is proof of this,” Molins said. “A terrorist cell was neutralized and seeing their organization and arms [it is clear] this cell could have acted.”

He said a woman was among those arrested. Molins said he was “not in a position to say how many people died in raid or identify them.”

Earlier, officials said a woman killed herself by detonating explosives during the raid and a man was killed by police. Molins said she had not yet been identified.

Neither Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian militant who is thought to have planned Friday’s attacks and who was the main target of the raid, nor Salah Abdeslam, one of the attackers who is at large, were among those arrested.

“Investigations are underway to identify the dead terrorists and those who were arrested as well as into anyone who is behind these attacks, whether in France or Syria,” Molins said.

“The Saint-Denis apartment might have been a retrenchment site for Abaaoud… The investigators were led to this building after being given testimony that Abaaoud was in French territory,” he added.

Abaaoud, a Belgian of Moroccan origin, joined Daesh in early 2013 and had been thought to be in Syria.

He emerged as the prime suspect within hours of Friday’s attacks in central Paris that killed 129 people at the Bataclan, in bars and restaurants and outside the national stadium in Europe’s deadliest terror attack since the Madrid train bombings in 2004 that killed 191.

Abaaoud has previously been linked to several terror plots and was sentenced to 20 years in prison by a Belgian court earlier this year for recruiting for Daesh.

Turning to the manhunt for Abdeslam, Molins said three vehicles rented by Abdelslam and his brother Ibrahim, who blew himself up near the Bataclan, arrived in Paris the day before the attacks “virtually in convoy” from Belgium.

GPS data showed a black Fiat found in Montreaux was used by the three attackers who shot up bars and restaurants, according to the prosecutor.

Three Kalashnikovs and Salah Abdeslam’s fingerprints were found in the vehicle.

Molins confirmed Abdelslam and two other men were stopped by police at the Belgian border following Friday’s attacks but before a wanted notice was issued and he was allowed to drive away. The two others were identified later and arrested by Belgian police. Their role in the attacks is not known.

Of the seven attackers who died on Friday, two are still unidentified.

Six of the attackers blew themselves up while a seventh was killed by police. The French authorities revealed on Tuesday that they are searching for a ninth attacker.

All the victims have been identified, the French government said in statement Wednesday.

Author: Hajer M’tırı
[Photo: An exterior view of a house/apartments where terrorists were hidden, after a police operation against terrorists in Saint Denis, a northern suburb of Paris on November 18, 2015.Photographer: Geoffroy Van der Hasselt/AA]

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