• France's news in English

Paris attacks spotlight turns on Britain

AFP · 5 Dec 2015, 18:23

Published: 05 Dec 2015 18:23 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

The alleged mastermind of the November 13 attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, had links with "several" people based in Birmingham in central England's West Midlands region, the Wall Street Journal said, citing anonymous Western officials.

Abaaoud, a Belgian of Moroccan descent, was killed in a police raid five days after the Paris attacks, along with a cousin and an unidentified third person, according to French authorities.

The WSJ also reported that "at least" one unnamed person connected to the series of attacks, which killed 130 people across the French capital, was thought to have travelled to Britain beforehand.

The Guardian, citing counter-terrorism officials, also said an unnamed Paris attacker had visited Britain's two biggest cities to meet people who were suspected of plotting UK terror activity.

The newspaper said the man had managed to enter Britain and travel to London and Birmingham, before heading back to continental Europe undetected despite a "severe" threat alert.

"In both cities he met with people suspected of having the intention and capability of plotting or assisting terrorist activity against the UK," The Guardian reported, describing him as an "ISIS (Islamic State) militant".

The suspects visited are under investigation by Britain's domestic intelligence agency MI5 and police counter-terrorism officials, it added.

The British paper said that "months later" the same man was part of the Paris terror attacks.

The WSJ meanwhile reported that some of the Birmingham-based people were of Moroccan heritage, like Abaaoud.

Both the Home Office and the Metropolitan Police told AFP on Saturday that they could "neither confirm nor deny" the reports.

"Post the Paris attacks, the Met's Counter Terrorism Command have been working closely with colleagues in France," a Met spokesman added.

"It would be inappropriate to comment on the French investigation."

West Midlands Police said Saturday that it was aware of the speculation "regarding the Paris terror attackers and potential contact with people or places in Birmingham".

West Midlands Police assistant chief constable Marcus Beale added: "The West Midlands counter-terrorism unit is working hand-in-hand with counter terrorism colleagues in London, the national CT network and security services to provide support to the French and Belgian investigations and of course to address any associated terrorism threat to the UK. "

- Past Birmingham links -

Islamic extremists have surfaced before in Birmingham. Junaid Hussain, a high-ranking Islamic State group operative, was from there.

On Saturday, meanwhile, a 25-year-old man was due to be presented to an examining magistrate in Paris on suspicion of providing lodgings to two of the attackers, a legal source told AFP.

The man, identified only as Mohamed S., was in contact with two other people linked to Abaaoud.

The suspect knew Abaaoud's female cousin Hasna Aitboulahcen, and Jawad Bendaoud, who lent his apartment to the Belgian jihadist ahead of the attacks.

The prosecution will ask that Mohamed S. be detained and charged with criminal association in relation to a criminal terrorist plot, the source said.

Abaaoud, Aitboulahcen and an as-yet unidentified man were killed at the apartment in the northern Paris suburb of Saint-Denis when police stormed it.

Story continues below…

For now, Bendaoud is the only person who has been charged in the Paris leg of the ongoing French-Belgian inquiry.

In Belgium, a total of eight people have been charged and locked up on suspicion of having helped the assailants who carried out the November 13 attacks which also wounded more than 350 people.

Seven of the gunmen and suicide bombers who carried out the attacks died on the night, although only four of them have been formally identified.

Three other people connected to the massacre were killed in the Saint-Denis raid.

A massive manhunt is under way for another suspected assailant, Salah Abdeslam.

Police are also seeking two other suspects who were with Abdeslam when he was stopped by police at the Hungary-Austria border on September 9. They carried false ID papers identifying them as Belgian nationals Soufiane Kayal and Samir Bouzid.


Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Today's headlines
French cheer police, reviving Charlie spirit
French police officers on Saturday demonstrated for the fifth night in a row to protest mounting attacks on officers. Photo: Thomas Samson / AFP

Angry French police have taken to the streets for five nights in a row -- and Parisians have started to cheer them on, reviving scenes last seen following the Charlie Hebdo attacks in 2015.

Scarlett Johansson turns popcorn girl in Paris
US actress Scarlett Johansson greets customers at the Yummy Pop gourmet popcorn shop in the Marais district of Paris. Photo: Benjamin Cremel / AFP

Hollywood superstar Scarlett Johansson swapped the red carpet for a turn behind the counter at her new popcorn shop in Paris on Saturday.

US couple donates huge art collection to Paris
Marlene (centre) and Spencer (right) are donating their collection ‘for the benefit of art lovers’. Photo: Thomas Samson / AFP

A Texan couple who discovered their love for art during a trip to Paris in the 1970s are to donate the multi-million dollar collection they have amassed since to the French capital.

France to clear 'Jungle' migrant camp Monday
Migrants will be bussed from the camp to some 300 temporary accommodation centres around France. Photo: Denis Charlet/ AFP

The "Jungle" migrant camp on France's northern coast will be cleared of its residents on Monday before being demolished, authorities said Friday.

How life for expats in France has changed over the years
A market in Eymet, southwestern France. Photo: AFP

Foreigners in France explain how life has changed over the years.

London calling for Calais youths, but only a chosen few
Photo: AFP

Dozens of Calais minors are still hanging their hopes on help from the UK, but not all will be so lucky.

17 different ways to talk about sex in French
Photo: Helga Weber/Flickr

Fancy a quick run with the one-legged man?

Yikes! This is what a rat-infested French jail looks like
Photo: YouTube/France Bleu TV.

This video is not for sufferers of ratophobia (or musophobia as the condition is officially called).

France to allow Baby Jesus in Town Halls this Christmas
Photo: AFP

Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus are safe to go on display again this year, it seems.

National Front posts locations of migrants in French town
The National Front courts controversy. Photo: AFP

"Local tax payers have a right to know," says local far-right party chief.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
The ups and downs of being both French and English
How Brexit vote has changed life for expats in France
Twelve French insults we'd love to have in English
What's on in France: Ten of the best events in October
jobs available