France bombs ISIS HQ
16 November 2015, 08:27
Paris - France launched "massive" air strikes on the
Islamic State group's de-facto capital in Syria on Sunday night, destroying 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 Defence Ministry statement
said. The jets launched from sites in Jordan and the Persian Gulf, in coordination
with US forces.
Meanwhile, as police announced seven arrests and hunted for
more members of the sleeper cell that carried out the Paris attacks, French
officials revealed to The Associated Press that several key suspects had been
stopped and released by police after the attack.
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
Yet police already had him in their grasp early on 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 theatre where so many
‘Suspect let go’
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 authorisation to publicly disclose
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
Three brothers involved
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 theatre after taking the audience hostage and firing on
them repeatedly. It was the worst of Friday's synchronized attacks, leaving 89 dead
and hundreds of people wounded inside.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility. Its
statement mocked France's air attacks on suspected ISIS 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.