France to ‘intensify Syria operations,’ says President Hollande
A man waves a French flag as several hundred people gather to observe a minute of silence in Lyon, to pay tribute to the victims of the series of deadly attacks in Paris. REUTERS PhotoFrance is to ‘intensify Syria operations’ after the Paris attacks, said French President François Hollande, while police raided homes of suspected Islamist militants across France overnight arresting 23 people, as French fighter aircrafts have bombed the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) targets in Syria’s Raqqa city late Nov. 15.
Much of France came to a standstill at midday for a minute’s silence to remember the 129 killed in the co-ordinated suicide bombings and shootings. Metro trains stopped, pedestrians paused on pavements and office workers stood at their desks.
Talking to the French Parliament on Nov. 16, Hollande said that “France is not engaged in a war of civilizations because those assassins don’t represent any” civilization.
He said that France would intensify their operations in Syria, one day after French warplanes bombed ISIL training camps and a suspected arms depot in its Syrian stronghold Raqqa, its biggest such strike since it started assaults as part of a U.S.-led mission launched in 2014.
Prosecutors have identified five of the seven dead assailants, four Frenchmen and a foreigner fingerprinted in Greece last month, according to Reuters. His role in the carnage has fuelled speculation that ISIL took advantage of a recent wave of refugees fleeing Syria to slip militants into Europe.
Police believe one attacker is on the run, and are working on the assumption that at least four people helped organize the mayhem, which appears to have been organized in neighboring Belgium.
Belgian authorities have charged two people who, were charged “with a terrorist act and participation in the activities of a terrorist group,” were arrested after the Paris attacks on Nov. 16. Five others detained at the weekend were freed without charge, the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
One of those released was Mohamed Abdeslam, whose brother Brahim took part in the attacks and whose other brother Salah is being hunted by police.
“There was not the slightest charge, there is nothing against him,” Mohamed’s lawyer Nathalie Gallant told AFP.
The Belgian prosecutors confirmed that a major police raid in Brussels on Nov. 16 aimed at arresting Salah Abdeslam had ended without anyone being detained.
“We know that more attacks are being prepared, not just against France but also against other European countries,” French Prime Minister Manuel Valls told RTL radio. “We are going to live with this terrorist threat for a long time.”
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told reporters police had arrested nearly two dozen people and seized arms, including a rocket launcher and automatic weapons, in 168 raids overnight. Another 104 people were put under house arrest, he said.
“Let this be clear to everyone, this is just the beginning, these actions are going to continue,” Cazeneuve said.
ISIL, which claimed responsibility for the attacks in retaliation for French airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, warned in a video on Nov. 16 that any country hitting it would suffer the same fate, promising specifically to target Washington.
Schools and museums in Paris re-opened on Nov. 16 after a 48-hour shutdown, but some popular tourist sites, including Disneyland and the Eiffel Tower, remained closed.