France Strikes Islamic State in Syria Again after Paris Attacks

By Reuters
November 17,2015
  • x
  • Mail

By Paul Taylor

PARIS (Reuters) - France carried out fresh air strikes on Islamic State bases in northern Syria on Tuesday as police made 128 overnight raids across France in the hunt for accomplices to Friday's Paris attacks claimed by the Islamist group.

French warplanes targeted a command centre and a recruitment centre for jihadists in the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa in the second consecutive night of strikes ordered by President Francois Hollande, a military command spokesman told Reuters.

The strike involved 10 fighter jets launched from the United Arab Emirates and Jordan. French defence officials said the United States had stepped up intelligence sharing, enabling Paris to identify more specific targets.

At home, police conducted 128 raids overnight following the wave of shootings and suicide bombings at restaurants, a concert hall and a sports stadium around Paris which killed at least 129 people, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said.

He told France Info radio police were making rapid progress in their investigation into the attacks but declined to give details.

One top suspect, Belgian-born Frenchman Salah Abdeslam, 26, remains at large after escaping back to Belgium early on Saturday and eluding a police dragnet in the Brussels neighbourhood of Molenbeek, where he lived with his two brothers.

Hollande has declared a state of emergency allowing administrative arrests and searches without a warrant following the bloodiest attacks in French history.

The president was due to meet visiting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday morning to press his call for the United States and Russia to join in a grand global coalition to fight Islamic State in Syria.

"France is at war," Hollande told a solemn joint session of parliament at the Palace of Versailles on Monday, promising to increase funds for national security and strengthen anti-terrorism laws in response to the attacks.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Hollande would travel to Washington and Moscow next week to press his case for a single alliance to combat Islamic State instead of the current situation where Russia is supporting the forces of President Bashar al-Assad in conjunction with Iran, while the United States and France are in a coalition with Sunni Arab states opposed to Assad.

Valls said Paris would spare no expense to reinforce and equip its security forces and law enforcement agencies to fight terrorism, even though that was bound to involve breaching European budget deficit limits.

"They will necessarily be exceeded, because the resources we are giving the security services will not come from other budgets. We have to face up to this, and Europe ought to understand," he told France Inter radio.

Elsewhere in Europe, Britain was due to announce it would nearly double spending on cyber security to prevent Islamic militants launching online attacks on the country and increase the number of spies.


Parliamentarians gave Hollande a standing ovation on Monday before spontaneously singing the "Marseillaise" national anthem in a show of political unity after the most deadly attack France has seen since World War Two.

Speaking in Turkey at the same time as Hollande, Obama called Friday's attacks a "terrible and sickening setback", but maintained that the U.S.-led coalition was making progress, and said he remained cautious about deeper military engagement in Syria.

Kerry came to Paris to pay respects to the victims of the attacks, declaring: "Tonight we are all Parisians."

In remarks to U.S. embassy staff before going to meet Hollande, he said: "We are engaged in a struggle here; a struggle of a generation. We are not choosing randomly to go to war."

Hollande said he would create 5,000 jobs in the security forces, boost prison service staff by 2,500, beef up the depleted unit of anti-terrorism magistrates and avoid cuts in defence spending before 2019.

He also said he would ask parliament to extend for three months a state of emergency he declared on Friday, which gives security forces sweeping powers to search and detain suspects.

Prosecutors have identified five of the seven dead assailants -- four Frenchmen and a foreigner fingerprinted in Greece last month. His role in the carnage has fuelled speculation that Islamic State took advantage of a recent wave of refugees fleeing Syria to slip militants into Europe.

In addition to the suspect on the run, police believe at least four other people helped organise the mayhem.


French investigators believe the Paris attacks may have been ordered by Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian national now living in Syria where he has become an Internet propagandist for Islamic State under the nom de guerre Abu Omar al-Belgiki -- the Belgian.

Belgian media have reported that Salah Abdeslam spent time in jail for robbery five years ago alongside Abaaoud.

Police in France named two of the French attackers as Ismael Omar Mostefai, 29, from Chartres, southwest of Paris, and Samy Amimour, 28, from the Paris suburb of Drancy.

Valls refused to comment on media reports that Amimour managed to slip back into France unnoticed despite being the object of an arrest warrant for terrorism-related activity.

France believes Mostefai, a petty criminal who never served time in jail, visited Syria in 2013-2014. His radicalisation underlined the trouble police face trying to capture an elusive enemy raised in its own cities.

Latest official figures estimate that 520 French nationals are in the Syrian and Iraqi war zones, including 116 women. Some 137 have died in the fighting, 250 have returned home and around 700 have plans to travel to join the jihadist factions.

The Belgian football federation said in a statement on Monday it was calling off an international friendly due to be played against Spain in Brussels on Tuesday for security reasons.

Another friendly between France and England was set to go ahead in London, with British fans promising to sing the French "Marseillaise" anthem in solidarity with France.

(Additional reporting by Laurence Frost, Maya Nikolaeva, Julien Ponthus, Patrick Vignal and David Brunnstrom; Writing by Paul Taylor; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)