France Launches Overnight Raids Across the Country in Wake of 13 Nov. AttacksNovember 16, 2015 in France
Officials have reported that a total of twenty-three people have been arrested and dozens of weapons seized in a series of raids that occurred overnight and which targeted suspected Islamist militants across France. The crackdown follows multiple attacks that targeted bars, restaurants, a concert hall and a stadium in Paris on Friday, in which 129 people were killed and over 300 were left injured. Reports have also indicated that a police operation is underway in Brussels, Belgium, with on the ground sources reporting hearing shots and explosions in the district of Molenbeek.
Late Friday evening, gunmen and bombers carried out a wave attacks that targeted restaurants, a concert hall and an area near the Stade de France in northern Paris, where France and Germany were playing a friendly football match. At 2120 local time, a suicide bomber activated an explosive belt near the gate of the Stade de France in the northern suburb of Saint-Denis. At the time of the incident, the stadium was packed with spectators, including French President Francois Hollande and the German foreign minister. Officials have disclosed that the explosion killed the bomber and a passer-by. At 2125, in the 10th district of Paris, at the crossroads of rue Bichat and Rue Alibert, gunmen shot at clients who were sitting on the terraces of the Le Carillon bar and at the Petit Cambodge restaurant. Fifteen people were killed and ten were severely injured. At 2130, outside the Stade de France, a second suicide bomber detonated a bomb, killing only himself while at 2132, gunmen opened fire in front of the A La Bonne Biere bar, which is located at the intersection of rue Fontaine au Roi and rue Faubourg du Temple in the 11th district. Five people were killed and eight were severally injured. At 2136, gunmen killed nineteen people who were sitting on the terrace of the restaurant La Belle Equipe in nearby rue de Charone. Nine people sustained severe injuries, while around 2140, a suicide bomber killed himself inside the restaurant Le Comptoir Voltaire, which is located on boulevard Voltaire, also in the 11th district. One person was severely injured. At 2140, a car stopped in front of the nearby Bataclan concert hall. Several gunmen entered the theatre during a concert of the Eagles of Death Metal rock group and shot indiscriminately at the crowd. Around 89 people were killed and many were left injured. Sources have reported that the attackers made verbal references to Syria and Iraq. At 2135 a third suicide bomber killed himself near the Stade de France. On Saturday, at 0020, security forces launched an assault on the Bataclan concern hall in a bid to try and free those inside. Three of the attackers inside the concert hall are killed, one of whom is shot, while the remaining two kill themselves using their explosive belt.
On Saturday, the so-called Islamic State (IS) group released an official statement, claiming responsibility for Friday’s massacre. In the statement, IS indicated that the attacks were due to France’s policies pertaining to Syria, and its participation in coalition air strikes. IS further warned France that such attacks will continue until the country changes is stance.
IS’ threat however has not forced France to rethink its strategy and position in combatting the jihadist group. While France has been bombing IS positions in Iraq and Syria, as part of a US-led operation, for months, Friday’s attacks have resulted in Paris vowing to destroy the group. Underlining its resolve, French jets on Sunday launched their largest raids in Syria to date, hitting the group’s stronghold in Raqqa. A statement released by the French Defense Ministry reported that “the raid…including 10 fighter jets, was launched simultaneously from the United Arab Emirates and Jordan. Twenty bombs were dropped,” adding that amongst the targets were a munitions depot and training camp. IS has since issued a statement saying that the raid targeted empty locations and that there were no casualties.
In the days since the tragedy, numerous details pertaining to the attack and those behind it have emerged. On Monday, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls disclosed that the attacks had been organized from Syria, further adding that the authorities believe that new terror attacks are being planned in France as well as in other European countries. There have also been numerous reports of arrests of those involved in Friday’s attack as officials in France carried out more than 150 raids on militant targets early on Monday. According to the French Prime Minister, “we are making use of the legal framework of the state of emergency to question people who are part of the radical jihadist movement…and all those who advocate hate of the republic.” Police sources have reported that properties in the Paris suburb of Bobigny, as well as the cities of Grenoble, Lyon and Toulouse, were targeted. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has reported that 23 people have been arrested and dozens of weapons were seized, including a Kalashnikov assault rifle and rocket launchers. More than 100 people have been placed under house arrest.
Over the weekend, officials identified five of the attackers, while on Monday, another two were named by the Paris prosecutor.
- Salah Abdeslam (26) – urgently sought by police
- Mohammed Abdeslam – arrested in Belgium; his lawyer confirmed on Monday that he has since been released without charge, proving his innocence. His brothers are Brahim Abdeslam, killed during the attacks, and Salah, who remains on the run.
- Brahim Abdeslam (31) – named as attacker who died near Bataclan concert hall
- Omar Ismail Mostefai (29) – from near Paris; died in attack on Bataclan
- Bilal Hadfi (20) – named as attacker who died at the Stade de France
- Ahmad al-Mohammad (25) – from Idlib, Syria; died at the Stade de France. While Al-Mohammed is the name on a Syrian passport that was found with the remains of one of the attackers, the man’s identify has not yet been verified. What has been confirmed is that his fingerprints match those that were taken by Greek authorities after he arrived with migrants on the island of Leros in October 2015.
- Samy Amimour (28) – from near Paris; suicide bomber at Bataclan. He was said to be facing terrorism charges in France. He was placed under judicial supervision while under investigation for terrorist conspiracy – he planned to go to Yemen. An international arrest warrant was issued against him when he broke bail in autumn 2013. Three of his relatives were amongst those detained early Monday morning.
Officials have also launched investigations in Brussels, specifically in the district of Molenbeek, which has a reputation as being a haven for jihadists. Investigators are also reported to be focusing on a Belgian of Moroccan descent, who is described as the possible mastermind of the attacks. Abdelhamid Abaoud, 27, lived in the same neighbourhood of Brussels as two of the attackers. He is now believed to be based in Syria, where he has risen through the ranks of IS. Police have also named Brussels-born Salah Abdeslam, 26, as a key suspect, and a manhunt is currently underway. He was reportedly stopped by officers in the wake of the attacks while crossing into Belgium however police let him go. Belgian authorities are confident that he is in the Brussels area.