Black America Web Featured Video
CLOSE

Updated at 5:41am

PARIS (AP) — French police raided more than 150 locations overnight as authorities released the names of two more potential suicide bombers involved in the Paris attacks— one born in Syria, the other a Frenchman wanted as part of a terrorism investigation.

The raids came as the hunt continued for members of the sleeper cell that carried out last Friday’s gun and bomb attacks that killed 129 people and as France launched its heaviest airstrikes on the Islamic State group’s de-facto capital in Syria.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Monday “we are at war” against terrorism.

French authorities say Sunday night’s airstrikes destroyed a jihadi training camp and a munitions dump in the city of Raqqa, where Iraqi intelligence officials say the attacks on Paris were planned.

Twelve aircraft including 10 fighter jets dropped a total of 20 bombs in the biggest air strikes since France extended its bombing campaign against the extremist group to Syria in September, a Defense Ministry statement said. The jets launched from sites in Jordan and the Persian Gulf, in coordination with U.S. forces.

The Paris prosecutor’s office said one suicide bomber who blew himself up in the Bataclan music hall Friday night was Samy Amimour, a 28-year-old Frenchman charged in a terrorism investigation in 2012. Amimour was placed under judicial supervision, but dropped off authorities’ radar in 2013 and an international arrest warrant was issued.

An attacker who blew himself up outside the national soccer stadium was found with a Syrian passport with the name Ahmad Al Mohammad, a 25-year-old born in Idlib, the prosecutor’s office said. It said fingerprints from the attacker match those of someone who passed through Greece in October.

Across France and throughout Europe, people were due to pause for a minute’s silence in memory of the victims of the worst attack on French soil since World War II.

Tension was high in France and Belgium as police looked for a key suspect. The arrest warrant for Salah Abdeslam, a 26-year-old born in Brussels, calls him very dangerous and warns people not to intervene if they see him.

Yet French officials revealed to The Associated Press that police already had him in their grasp early Saturday, when they stopped a car carrying three men near the Belgian border. By then, hours had passed since authorities identified Abdeslam as the renter of a Volkswagen Polo that carried hostage takers to the Paris theater where so many died.

Three French police officials and a top French security official confirmed that officers let Abdeslam go after checking his ID. They spoke on condition of anonymity, lacking authorization to publicly disclose such details.

Tantalizing clues about the extent of the plot have emerged from Baghdad, where senior Iraqi officials told the AP that France and other countries had been warned on Thursday of an imminent attack.

An Iraqi intelligence dispatch warned that Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had ordered his followers to immediately launch gun and bomb attacks and take hostages inside the countries of the coalition fighting them in Iraq and Syria.

The Iraqi dispatch, which was obtained by the AP, provided no details on when or where the attack would take place, and a senior French security official told the AP that French intelligence gets these kinds of warnings “all the time” and “every day.”

However, Iraqi intelligence officials told the AP that they also warned France about specific details: Among them, that the attackers were trained for this operation and sent back to France from Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de-facto capital.

The officials also said that a sleeper cell in France then met with the attackers after their training and helped them to execute the plan. There were 24 people involved in the operation, they said: 19 attackers and five others in charge of logistics and planning.

None of these details have been corroborated by officials of France or other Western intelligence agencies.

All these French and Iraqi security and intelligence officials spoke with the AP on condition of anonymity, citing the ongoing investigation.

Abdeslam is one of three brothers believed to be involved; One who crossed with him into Belgium was later arrested, and another blew himself up inside the Bataclan theater after taking the audience hostage and firing on them repeatedly. It was the worst of Friday’s synchronized attacks, leaving 89 fatalities and hundreds of people wounded inside.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility. Its statement mocked France’s air attacks on suspected IS targets in Syria and Iraq, and called Paris “the capital of prostitution and obscenity.”

In all, three teams of attackers including seven suicide bombers attacked the national stadium, the concert hall and nearby nightspots. The attacks wounded 350 people, 99 of them seriously.

Abdeslam rented the black Volkswagen Polo used by the hostage-takers, another French security official said. A Brussels parking ticket found inside led police to at least one of the arrests in Belgium, a French police official said.

Three Kalashnikovs were found inside another car known to have been used in the attacks that was found in Montreuil, an eastern Parisian suburb, another a French police official said.

As many as three of the seven suicide bombers were French citizens, as was at least one of the men arrested in the Molenbeek neighborhood of Brussells, which authorities consider to be a focal point for extremists and fighters going to Syria from Belgium.

Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon, speaking to The Associated Press by phone, said suspects arrested in Molenbeek had been stopped previously in Cambrai, France, “in a regular roadside check” but that police had had no suspicion about them at the time and they were let go quickly.

One, identified by the print on a recovered finger, was 29-year-old Frenchman Ismael Mostefai, who had a record of petty crime and had been flagged in 2010 for ties to Islamic radicalism, the Paris prosecutor said. A judicial official and lawmaker Jean-Pierre Gorges confirmed his identity. A judicial official said police have also identified two other of the suicide bombers, both French nationals who’d been living in Belgium: 20-year-old Bilal Hadfi, who detonated himself outside the Stade de France; and 31-year-old Brahim Abdeslam, the brother of fugitive Salah Abdeslam, who blew himself up on the Boulevard Voltaire.

Police detained Mostefai’s father, a brother and other relatives Saturday night, and they were still being questioned Sunday, the judicial official said.

These details stoked fears of homegrown terrorism in France, which has exported more jihadis than any other in Europe, and seen many return from the fight. All three gunmen in the January attacks on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper and a kosher supermarket in Paris were French.

The attackers inside the Bataclan seemed quite young, according to one survivor, Julien Pearce, a journalist at Europe 1 radio who escaped by crawling onto the stage, and then out an exit door when the shooters paused to reload. Before making his final dash, he got a good look at one of the assailants, he said.

“He seemed very young. That’s what struck me, his childish face, very determined, cold, calm, frightening,” Pearce said.

Struggling to keep his country calm and united after an exceptionally violent year, President Francois Hollande met Sunday with opposition leaders — conservative rival and former President Nicolas Sarkozy as well as increasingly popular far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who has used the attacks on Paris to advance her anti-immigrant agenda.

Refugees fleeing war by the tens of thousands fear the Paris attacks could prompt Europe to close its doors, especially after police said a Syrian passport found next to one attacker’s body suggested its owner passed through Greece into the European Union and on through Macedonia and Serbia last month.

Paris remains on edge amid three days of official mourning. French troops have deployed by the thousands and tourist sites remain shuttered in one of the most visited cities on Earth. Panic ensued Sunday night as police abruptly cleared hundreds of mourners from the famed Place de la Republique square, where police said firecrackers sparked a false alarm.

“Whoever starts running starts everyone else running,” said Alice Carton, city council member who was at the square. “It’s a very weird atmosphere. The sirens and screaming are a source of fear.”

Officers also moved in, guns drawn, after mourners panicked near the Carillon bar, where crowds have laid flowers and lit candles in memory of the 15 people killed there.

“Lots of people started running and screaming from the Carillon…tables were overturned, plates shattered. It was a terrible panic,” said Jonathan Dogan, who took shelter in a nearby hotel. “I think people are terrified,” Dogan said.

 

A Chilean mother and her daughter, cut down in a concert hall while the daughter’s 5-year-old son survived. A young Italian woman, separated from her boyfriend and friends when the concert erupted in chaos. They were among the latest victims named as officials on Sunday continued the heavy task of identifying the 129 people killed in Friday night’s coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris. Among the confirmed dead:

—Nick Alexander, 36, of Colchester, England, who was working at the Bataclan concert hall selling merchandise for the performing band, Eagles of Death Metal. “Nick was not just our brother, son and uncle, he was everyone’s best friend — generous, funny and fiercely loyal,” his family said in a statement. “Nick died doing the job he loved and we take great comfort in knowing how much he was cherished by his friends around the world.”

—Thomas Ayad, 32, producer manager for Mercury Music Group and a music buff who was killed at the Bataclan. In his hometown, Amiens, he was an avid follower of the local field hockey team. Lucian Grainge — the chairman of Universal Music Group, which owns Mercury Music — said the loss was “an unspeakably appalling tragedy,” in a Saturday note to employees provided to the Los Angeles Times.

—Asta Diakite, cousin of French midfielder Lassana Diarra, who played against Germany in Friday’s soccer match at Stade de France, during which three suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the stadium Friday night. Diarra, who is Muslim, posted a moving message on Twitter after his cousin was killed in the shootings, saying that “She was like a big sister to me.” He added: “It is important for all of us who represent our country and its diversity to stay united against a horror which has no color, no religion. Stand together for love, respect and peace.”

—Guillame Decherf, 43, a writer who covered rock music for the French culture magazine Les Inrocks. He was at the Eagles of Death Metal concert, having written about the band’s latest album.

A fellow music journalist, Thomas Mafrouche, often saw Decherf at concerts and was supposed to meet him Sunday. In a Facebook message to The Associated Press, Mafrouche said Decherf was extremely proud of his two young daughters. “I’m thinking about their pain, about their father, whom they will miss terribly,” he wrote. Laurence Faure with the Hard Force heavy metal website, to which Decherf contributed, said Decherf was appreciated for his humor and kindness. “He didn’t have an ego problem,” she wrote.

—Fabrice Dubois, who worked with the publicity agency Publicis Conseil. The agency said in a statement on Facebook that he was killed at the concert hall and that “the entire agency is upset. He was a very great man in every sense of the word. Our thoughts are with his family, his wife, his children, his friends, those with whom he worked.”

—Michelli Gil Jaimez, of Tuxpan in the Mexican state of Veracruz, had studied at a business school in Lyons, France, and was currently living in Paris. She also held Spanish citizenship. She had just gotten engaged to her Italian boyfriend, according to her Facebook page. Mexican officials did not give her age or say where she was killed.

—Nohemi Gonzalez, 23, a senior at California State University, Long Beach. The university said Gonzalez, from El Monte, California, was attending Strate College of Design in Paris during a semester abroad program. Gonzalez was in the Petit Cambodge restaurant with another Long Beach State student when she was fatally shot, Cal State officials said in a news conference Saturday.

Her mother, Beatriz Gonzalez, said Nohemi graduated early from high school early and couldn’t wait to go to college. “She was very independent since she was little,” she said. Design professor Michael LaForte said Gonzalez stood out at the California university. “She was a shining star, and she brought joy, happiness, laughter to everybody she worked with and her students, her classmates.”

—Alberto Gonzalez Garrido, 29, of Madrid, who was at the Bataclan concert. The Spanish state broadcaster TVE said Gonzalez Garrido was an engineer, living in France with his wife, also an engineer. They both were at the concert, but became separated amid the mayhem.

— Mathieu Hoche, 38, a cameraman for France24 news channel, also killed at the concert. A friend, Antoine Rousseay, tweeted about how passionately Hoche loved rock ‘n’ roll. Gerome Vassilacos, who worked with Hoche, told the AP that his colleague was fun, easygoing and great to work with. “Even though he laughed easily and joked around, he worked hard.”

Hoche had a 9-year-old son whom he had custody of every other weekend, so he lived a bit of a bachelor lifestyle, Vassilacos said. He and Hoche would go out for beers and chat up women, and Vassilacos said he recently thought they should hang out more often because they had so much in common.

—Djamila Houd, 41, of Paris, originally from the town of Dreux, southwest of the capital. The newspaper serving Dreux — L’Echo Republicain — said Houd was killed at a cafe on the rue de Charrone in Paris. According to Facebook posts from grieving friends, she had worked for Isabel Marant, a prestigious Paris-based ready-to-wear house.

—Cédric Mauduit, director of modernization of the French department of Calvados. The department issued a statement announcing his death at the concert hall, saying that Mauduit “found it a joy to share this concert with his five friends” and said the sadness of those who knew him was “immense.” Anyone who worked with Mauduit, the statement said, could appreciate both his skills and his humanity.

—Valentin Ribet, 26, a lawyer with the Paris office of the international law firm Hogan Lovell, who was killed in the Bataclan. Ribet received a master of laws degree from the London School of Economics in 2014, and earlier did postgraduate work at the Sorbonne university in Paris. His law firm said he worked on the litigation team, specializing in white collar crime. “He was a talented lawyer, extremely well liked, and a wonderful personality in the office,” the firm said.

— Patricia San Martin Nunez, 61, a Chilean exile, and her daughter, Elsa Veronique Delplace San Martin, 35. They were attending the concert at the Bataclan with Elsa’s 5-year-old son, who Chilean officials say survived. San Martin Nunez had been exiled from Chile during the dictatorship of Gen Augusto Pinochet, and her daughter was born in France.

In a statement, Chile’s Foreign Ministry described them as the niece and grandniece of Chile’s ambassador to Mexico, Ricardo Nunez. “They were taken hostage, and so far we know they were killed in a cold and brutal manner,” Nunez told Radio Cooperativa on Saturday. He said two people with them escaped alive.

— Valeria Solesin, 28, an Italian-born doctoral student at the Sorbonne. She had lived in Paris for several years and had gone to the concert at the Bataclan with her boyfriend. They lost track of each other as they tried to escape. Her mother, Luciana Milani, told reporters in Venice, “We will miss her very much, and she will be missed, I can also say, by our country. People like this are important.”

Solesin had been working at the Sorbonne as a researcher while completing her doctorate. While at a university in Italy, Solesin had worked as a volunteer for the Italian humanitarian aid group Emergency. “It is tragic that a person so young, who is trying to understand the world and to be a help, find herself involved in such a terrible event,” said Emergency regional coordinator in Trento, Fabrizio Tosini.

— Luis Felipe Zschoche Valle, 33, a Chilean-born resident of Paris. Chile’s Foreign Ministry said he had lived in Paris for eight years with his French wife and was killed at the Bataclan, where he had gone with his wife. He was a musician and member of the rock group Captain Americano.

Some governments announced that their citizens had been killed, without giving names. Germany’s Foreign Ministry said Sunday that a German man was killed. The Paris correspondent for German public broadcaster ARD, Mathias Werth, wrote on Twitter that the man had been sitting on the terrace of a cafe when he was killed. Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said a Swedish citizen was killed. Mexico’s government said another of its citizens, a woman who held dual Mexican-U.S. citizenship, was killed.

___

Like BlackAmericaWeb.com on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

 

Also On Black America Web:
The Ten Most Interesting Little Known Black History Facts
5 photos