French Fighter Jets Hit IS Targets in Syria
by Lisa Bryant November 15, 2015
French fighter jets have launched massive airstrikes against the Islamic State (IS) stronghold of Raqqa, reportedly destroying a command post and a training camp.
A French military statement said 10 fighter jets were used to drop 20 bombs on IS targets. It is France's biggest strike to date targeting IS in Syria, and comes after the terrorist group claimed responsibility for a series of attacks in Paris that killed more than 130 people Friday night.
The planes took off from Jordan and the United Arab Emirates Sunday evening and were operating in conjunction with U.S. forces
French President Francois Hollande has called Friday's gun and suicide attacks an 'act of war.'
In a possibly related development, Reuters News Agency is reporting that the United States has made a second delivery of ammunition to the Syrian Arab coalition fighting IS in northern Syria.
Reuters quotes a U.S. official as saying the weaponry was delivered over land. A previous supply mission was conducted by air in October.
In pursuit of suspect
French police have released a photo of a suspect who is still at large from the Friday night attack on Paris.
The suspect is identified as Salah Abdeslam, a 26-year-old man born in Brussels, Belgium. The posting soliciting information about the so-called eighth attacker warns that he is dangerous and that anyone with information should call authorities.
Media sources are reporting that French officials stopped Abdeslam hours after the attacks Friday night. They pulled him over on a roadway near the Belgian border in a car with two other people, questioned the three and released them.
He is one of three French brothers linked to the string of near simultaneous attacks across Paris.
Above, French National Police tweet containing photo of eigth suspect they are searching for in connection with the terror attacks
Another brother - Salah Ibrahim - blew himself up at the Bataclan music hall, during an attack there that killed more than 80 people. Belgium authorities are detaining the third brother.
Police in both France and Belgium have made several arrests and also are questioning family members and other people linked to the other suspected assailants.
Several of the Paris suicide bombers have been identified, including Bilal Hafdi of Belgium, who was one of the suicide bombers at the stadium.
French police Sunday questioned close relatives of Omar Ismail Mostefai, the first terrorist identified in the attack.
Mostefai's father, brother and sister-in-law were among six people authorities detained. He was one of seven attackers, all of them wearing suicide vests packed with explosives, who died during the simultaneous attacks, with six of them blowing themselves up and the seventh killed in a shootout with police.
French prosecutor Francois Molins said Mostefai was known to police as a petty criminal, but had 'never been implicated in an investigation or a terrorist association.' The 29-year-old Mostefai lived in Chartres, near Paris.
While authorities believe that there were only 8 actual attackers, they think that about 20 people were involved and of those, 10 are still unaccounted for.
Hundreds of Parisians who had gathered to observe vigils at the Place de la Republique and Carillion Café, one of the places that was attacked, panicked Sunday when sudden noises sent them running.
VOA's Daniel Schearf said he was shooting video footage at the first location where a crowd of about 2,000 had gathered mostly to mourn, although a small group was showing defiance and singing. A scream was heard somewhere at the center of the crowd and as he heard more screams people ran, emptying the square in a matter of moments.
The Associated Press reports that the crowd was spooked by fire crackers.
The Place de la Republique was the scene of massive peace demonstrations after January's Paris attacks.
Student Thomas Deblauwe and his father were at Place de la Republique earlier in the day, where a crowd placed flowers and candles in front of a giant statue of Marianne, the symbol of France.
Deblauwe told VOA it is important that the French stand together and support each other. The country will observe another moment of silence on Monday to pay homage to the victims.
France is marking three days of mourning for the victims, including more than 350 wounded. Hundreds of people packed Notre Dame Cathedral for an evening mass and Paris' Grand Synagogue held a special prayer vigil. Observances were made in cities throughout France.
Assault rifles found
Meanwhile, police said Sunday three AK-47 assault rifles were found in a black Seat Leon car used by gunmen who fired on people at bars and restaurants. The Spanish-manufactured car was discovered parked on a street in the eastern suburb of Montreuil.
A second car believed involved in the attack, a Volkswagen Polo, was found at the Bataclan concert hall where 89 people were killed.
A Belgian official said seven people have been detained there who have been linked to the Paris attacks, with one official saying that two of the seven Paris attackers were French men living in Brussels.
The official said one of the French nationals lived in the Molenbeek neighborhood, an enclave of religious extremism and focal point for fighters headed to Syria.
Days of mourning
Three teams of gunmen carried out the attacks at multiple locations. Authorities say 352 people were wounded in the killing spree, including 99 in critical condition.
French President Francois Hollande said the attacks, claimed by the Islamic State group, amounted to an 'act of war' against his country, and he feared terrorists may be planning more attacks. The French news agency (AFP) is reporting that Hollande wants to extend the state of emergency to three months. AFP cites parliamentary sources. Parliament would have to approve such a plan that would cover the upcoming climate conference.
In its claim of responsibility, Islamic State lashed out at the countries trying to suppress its attempt to establish a 'caliphate' in Syria and Iraq, and said France remains 'at the top' of its list of preferred targets.
An Islamic State message posted online Saturday said the Paris attacks were a response to the airstrikes the United States and its allies have been launching against its fighters in Iraq and Syria for more than a year.
Six sites across Paris were attacked, including restaurants, a football (soccer) stadium and the Bataclan concert hall. While all the known attackers were killed, it was not clear whether there might be more, or if accomplices are still lurking in Paris neighborhoods.
Video emerged from the Bataclan concert hall, with police seen caught in a gun battle with some attackers, with several of the officers taking cover.
Other video taken with a cell phone in an alley behind Bataclan showed people pouring out a back exit door, some limping away wounded, others carrying bodies and the wounded. Screams could be distinctly heard.
The Islamic State singled out France in its online statement. 'The stench of death will not leave their noses,' it said of French leaders, 'As long as they remain at the forefront of the crusaders' campaign, dare to curse our prophet, boast of a war with Islam in France, and strike Muslims in the lands of the caliphate with warplanes that were of no use to them in the streets and rotten alleys of Paris.'
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