In the US, the House of Representatives has approved legislation that would make it even more difficult for refugees from Syria and Iraq to enter the United States, writes Guardian US political correspondent Ben Jacobs:
With almost unanimous support from Republicans and 47 Democrats voting in favour, the House approved by 289 votes the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act, which would require the secretary of homeland security, the FBI director and the director of national intelligence to each certify that a refugee was not a threat to national security before they were admitted to the United States.
This certification would come on top of the pre-existing extensive screening process for refugees seeking admittance to the United States, which currently takes over 18 months.
The White House has already said the president will veto the legislation, if it is also passed by the Senate. However, if today’s margin in the House was repeated in both chambers of Congress following a presidential veto Congress could override such a veto. The measure is unlikely to receive a vote in the Senate because of the 60-vote super-majority needed to consider a bill under Senate rules.
President François Hollande has issued a statement ordering the “intensification of ongoing military operations in the fight agains Isis in Syria and in Iraq”. This follows on from a meeting of the president’s Defence Council, which discussed the operations to apprehend those responsible (and their accomplices) for the 13 November attacks.
Crowds are steadily gathering at the Stade de France, after the mayor of St-Denis, Didier Paillard, called on the town’s residents to pay tribute to the victims of last Friday’s attacks.
Abdelhamid Abaaoud, tried to recruit women living in Spain for the Islamic State group, Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz has said.
“This person, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, tried to recruit Spaniards, especially women, though social networks to join and fight with Daesh… to repopulate the caliphate,” he said.
Nine raids in total were carried out in Brussels this morning in the communes of Jette, Uccle and Molenbeek, the Belgian prosecutor has said.
Three of them were linked to the attacks in Paris and two people from those raids have been detained.
The other six raids were focused on properties connected to Bilal Hadfi, who blew himself up at the Stade de France on Friday.
The prosecutor said they were not directly linked to the attacks in Paris and that seven people are being questioned.
Cazeneuve said Abdelhamid Abaaoud was the subject of a European and international arrest warrant issued by Belgium, because he had been sentenced in absentia to 20 years’ imprisonment for terrorism recruitment.
France had information that he had connections to several planned attacks in France, including the attempted church bombing in Villejuif last April.
Of the six foiled projects in France since spring 2015, Abdelhamid Abaaoud seems to have been linked to four of them.
French prime minister Manuel Valls has praised the work of police and intelligence services in tracking down Abdelhamid Abaaoud, whom he called the “brain of these attacks”.
“I want to acknowledge the outstanding work of our intelligence services and the police,” he said to loud applause from France’s national assembly.
Police sources are now confirming Abaaoud’s cousin, Hasna Aitboulahcen, was the woman killed in the raid, believed to have blown herself up.
Her name and connection to Abaaoud was reported by multiple sources after the St-Denis raid, with French intelligence said to have been monitoring her as a potential link to Abaaoud.
Aitboulahcen had a brief exchange with police officers, according to one official who said she was asked: “Where is your boyfriend?” and she responded angrily: “He’s not my boyfriend!” before a huge explosion was heard.
Police officials told AP her body parts had been mangled, with part of her spine landing on a police car, which had made formal identification difficult.
“Abdel Hamid Abaaoud has just been formally identified, after comparing fingerprints, as having been killed during the raid,” the prosecutor’s statement said.
“It was the body we had discovered in the building, riddled with bullets.”
The French prosecutor’s office confirms that Abdelhamid Abaaoud is the man killed in the raid on St-Denis yesterday.
His body has been formally identified at the Rue de Corbillon in the Paris suburb, the prosecutor said.
Conflicting information is rife regarding Abdul-Hamid Abu Oud, the man reported by several news outlets to have been killed in the St-Denis siege.
Now the Belgian public broadcaster reports neither Abu Oud or Salah Abdeslam, the two most wanted men connected to the Paris attacks, are among the dead or arrested from last night’s raid.
The broadcaster RTBF quotes an official source close to the investigation.
Last night the Washington Post had conflicting information from two senior European officials, reporting Abu Oud was the dead man from the police raid on the Paris suburban apartment, where a female suicide bomber also died.
We still have no official confirmation of who died in the raid from French or Belgian prosecutors or police.
French forensic teams are working to establish whether the body of a man found dead after a firefight with police is Abu Oud, who is the alleged ringleader of last week’s Paris terror attacks.
French media have reported the dead woman was Abu Oud’s cousin, Hasna Aitboulahcen, but the mutilated condition of both bodies and the dangerous state of the badly damaged building is making it difficult to identify either.
The entire third floor of the building at 8, rue du Corbillon collapsed during the raid on Wednesday, Georges Salinas, deputy commander of the elite BRI police unit, told French radio.
French military colonel Gilles Jaron says the country has destroyed 35 Islamic State targets in Syria since last week’s attack.
French planes dropped 60 bombs on six sites, Islamic State command centres or training sites.
The Charles de Gaulle nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, which left on Wednesday for the eastern Mediterranean, will triple France’s air capacity in the region.
Front National leader Marine Le Pen stormed out of a radio interview this morning after clashing with the presenter and accusing the station of being “a court.”
The far-right politician told France Inter that certain government ministers should resign in the wake of the Paris attacks, including interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve and justice minister Christiane Taubira.
Le Pen went on to accuse Taubira of saying in an interview that it was necessary to “understand the young people who left for Syria.”
FranceInter presenter Patrick Cohen interrupted Le Pen to challenge her interpretation of Le Pen’s comments, playing back to her the quotes from Taubira’s interview where she had said it was “important to understand what makes young people leave.”
Clearly flustered, Le Pen accused the radio station of being “a court” and walked out ofthe studio, despite Cohen and fellow presenter Bernard Guetta’s attempts to move the conversation on.
The chief of Europe’s policing co-ordination network says at least2,000 Europeans are foreign fighters who have travelled to Syria or Iraq, with 10,000 names on the EU database.
Europol director Rob Wainwright said the numbers had doubled in the past year, with 2,000 confirmed fighters and 8,000 other suspects or facilitators. The actual number of fighters is likely to be closer to 5,000, he said.
In a speech at the European Parliament, Wainwright said the agency’s priority is to “motivate the national authorities to share their counterterrorist data” and half the information on the database comes from just five countries, out of the EU’s 28 member states.
French forensics are continuing the delicate business of identifying the man and woman killed in the raid on St-Denis yesterday. The French interior ministry and Paris prosecutor’s office have reiterated on Thursday morning that it remains unclear whether Abdel-Hamid Abu Oud, the suspected ringleader, has been killed. The woman, who blew herself, has been named in multiple reports as Abu Oud’s cousin Hasna Aitboulahcen.
German police have said a man arrested in Bavaria with a car packed with guns and explosives may have no connection the attacks in Paris on Friday, and was allegedly arms runner.
The 51-year-old from Montenegro was arrested a week before the Paris attacks, which he was initially linked to after it emerged that the sat-nav in the car indicated he was driving to Paris.
“The investigations have established a link to France, but no link to terrorism so far,” a Bavarian police spokesman said on Thursday.
German interior minister Thomas de Maiziere told ZDF television on Wednesday the sat-nav indicated he had been to France several times, and the weapons had been expertly hidden in the car, which suggested he frequently smuggled weapons.. The suspect had hidden the arms in a way that suggested he smuggled weapons frequently.
“Everything points to the man being an arms runner, maybe belonging to the world of organised crime.”
Montenegro’s interior ministry has said the arrested man is an Orthodox Christian with no obvious connection to radical Islam.
Didier Paillard, the mayor of St-Denis, the scene of yesterday morning’s raids, has called on the town’s citizens to gather tonight in tribute to the victims of last Friday’s attacks.
Residents are urged to gather at 6pm in front of the Stade de France, the stadium that was one of the targets of the attacks in Paris.
“I would like to thank everyone in St-Denis who respected the security forces’ work, who did not give in to panic and showed the kind of solidarity that unites us all,” he said.
“Tomorrow, we must fight. We must fight radicalisation and we must fight hatred. More than ever, St-Denis is a town of the people, tolerant and open.
“In France, as in St-Denis, the best response to barbarism is to confront it, together.”
Valls warns of ‘chemical weapons’ attack
Bilal Hadfi, one of the suicide bombers at the Stade de France, is the focus of the ongoign police raids in Brussels, which apparently aim to find his associates.
Hadfi had been fighting in Syria as recently as July, posting updates on Twitter under a pseudonym.
Sara Stacino, his former teacher, told VRT television that Hadfi was “a nice student, motivated and interested in politics, more than the others.”
“He stopped listening to music, and he believed that women should be veiled,” Stacino said.
After the January attacks on Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket that left 17 dead, Stacino said she alerted the school administrators about Hadfi. “But we all took a rather cautious stand,” she said.
We knew Hadfi had traveled to Syria and had come back,” a Belgian justice ministry spokeswoman told the Washington Post, adding that the phone line at his Molenbeek home had been tapped. “But when he wasn’t found to be home, they had to stop the tapping, according to the legal requirements,” she said.
Belgian public broadcaster RTBF reports police raids are ongoing in Brussels, Jette, Molenbeek and Uccle.
Authorities in Belgium have launched six new raids in the Brussels region linked to Paris suicide bomber Bilal Hadfi, according to Associated Press, quoting an official in the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office.
Molenbeek, the run-down suburb which has been at the heart of police investigations over the past days, is the focus of one of the raids, as well as other areas of Brussels.
Bilal Hadfi is thought to have been one of three attackers that blew themselves up at the Stade de France stadium, with raids centring on “his entourage”.