The French President François Hollande says France is committed to “destroying” Islamic State. He plans to extend the country’s state of emergency to three months, pump more resources into its security forces, and is intensifying the military campaign against the extremist group.
Following last week’s deadly attacks in Paris on a concert hall, stadium, bars and restaurants that killed 129 people, Hollande addressed both houses of parliament with his action plan. He said:
“France is at war.
“These attacks were war. It was an attack against our values, against our youth and our way of life.”
“Since the beginning of the year, this organisation has attacked Paris, Denmark, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Libya.
“Every single day they massacre and oppress people. That’s the reason why we need to destroy Isis.”
The French military has already retaliated with “massive” airstrikes on Islamic State targets in Syria, dropping 20 bombs across Raqqa, the group’s stronghold in the north of the country.
While the French government has been cracking down, its police have launched raids across France to seize suspected attackers.
So far, 23 people have been arrested, with dozens of weapons taken in by the police as part of the crackdown. More than 100 people have been put under house arrest.
A police operation has also taken place in Brussels, Belgium. Police have named Brussels-born Salah Abdeslam, 26, as a key suspect, and a manhunt for him is underway.
Police carried out a raid in the suburb Molenbeek this morning and closed a number of roads. Shots and explosions were heard during the raid in the district, which is known as a haven for jihadists. The aim of this raid was to catch Abdeslam, but ended without any arrests. He is believed to be on the run.
There are reports that Abdeslam was stopped by police in the wake of the attacks while crossing into Belgium, but then let go.
A number of other suspects have been arrested, and seven of the attackers died at the scene, mainly from suicide bombs. The BBC lists them:
> Brahim Abdeslam, 31 – named as the attacker who died near Bataclan concert hall.
> Omar Ismail Mostefai, 29, from near Paris – died in the attack on Bataclan.
> Bilal Hadfi, 20 – named as the attacker who died at Stade de France.
> Ahmad al-Mohammad, 25, from Idlib, Syria – died in the attack at Stade de France (unverified)
> Samy Amimour, 28, from near Paris – suicide bomber at Bataclan.
> Two other attackers, not yet named, died during the assaults in the city.
Al-Mohammad’s fingerprints matched those of someone who entered Europe through Greece in October, but links between the attacks and the refugee crisis are being treated with caution.
The mastermind of this terrorist assault is believed to be Abdelhamid Abaoud, 27, who lived in the same neighbourhood of Brussels as the two suspected attackers who were based in Belgium (the brothers Salah and Brahim Abdeslam). He is the leader of an Islamic State cell and thought to be based in Syria.