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TERRORISM

Foiled Paris terror plot ‘was being directed from abroad’

The thwarted plot to attack targets in the Paris region was directed from the Middle East, a French prosecutor has said.

Foiled Paris terror plot 'was being directed from abroad'
File photo: AFP

A group of suspected extremists arrested last weekend in France were Islamic State supporters, who were preparing an attack on the Paris area that was being directed from “the Iraqi-Syrian region,” a prosecutor said Friday.

Public prosecutor Francois Molins said police had found automatic weapons and evidence of allegiances to the ISIS group, after raids in Strasbourg and Marseille, and the group was planning to strike in the Paris area on December 1st.

Sources close to the investigation told AFP on Thursday that Disneyland Paris theme park as well as police HQ in Paris were among the sites to be targeted.

However Molins said: “At this stage it is not possible to determine the precise targets among all the sites identified by the group. Evidence found on mobile phones showed numerous places had been researched.”

Police sources had also told AFP that members of the cell had researched bars in north east Paris as well as the Champs Elysées Christmas market.

But Molins confirmed that the police investigation had proved that the terror cell was being given directions from the Middle East region covering Iraq and Syria which were controlled by Isis forces.

“It appears that the Strasbourg cell and the individual held in Marseille had joint instructions for how to get arms, instructions given by an commander.

Molins added that: “Evidence seized in Strasbourg included clear written messages declaring allegiance to Isis and glorifying dying as a martyr.

Out of the seven suspects initially arrested, two were released, but five – four French nationals and one Moroccan – will be presented to a judge on Friday where they are expected to be charged for terrorism offences.

 

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TERRORISM

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks

US Vice President Kamala Harris and French Prime Minister Jean Castex laid wreaths at a Paris cafe and France's national football stadium Saturday six years since deadly terror attacks that left 130 people dead.

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks
US Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff lay flowers after ceremonies at Le Carillon bar and Le Petit Cambodge restaurant, at which 130 people were killed during the 2015 Paris terror attacks. Photo: Sarahbeth Maney/POOL/AFP

The attacks by three separate teams of Islamic State group jihadists on the night of November 13, 2015 were the worst in France since World War II.

Gunmen mowed down 129 people in front of cafes and at a concert hall in the capital, while a bus driver was killed after suicide bombers blew themselves up at the gates of the stadium in its suburbs.

Harris, wrapping up a four-day trip to France, placed a bouquet of white flowers in front of a plaque honouring the victims outside a Paris cafe.

Castex attended a minute of silence at the Stade de France football stadium, along with Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, before laying wreaths at the sites of the other attacks inside Paris.

In front of the Bataclan concert hall, survivors and relatives of the victims listened to someone read out the names of each of the 90 people killed during a concert there six years ago.

Public commemorations of the tragedy were called off last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Last year we weren’t allowed to come and we all found it really tough,” said Bruno Poncet, who made it out alive of the Bataclan.

But he said the start of a trial over the attacks in September meant that those attending the commemoration this year felt more united.

‘Overcome it all’

“We’ve really bonded thanks to the trial,” he said. “During previous commemorations, we’d spot each other from afar without really daring to speak to each other. We were really shy. But standing up in court has really changed everything.”

The marathon trial, the biggest in France’s modern legal history, is expected to last until May 2022.

Twenty defendants are facing sentences of up to life in prison, including the sole attacker who was not gunned down by police, Salah Abdeslam, a French-Moroccan national who was captured in Brussels. Six of the defendants are being tried in absentia.

Poncet said he felt it was crucial that he attend the hearings. “I can’t possibly not. It’s our lives that are being discussed in that room, and it’s important to come to support the others and to try to overcome it all.”

Survivors have taken to the witness stand to recount the horror of the attacks, but also to describe life afterwards.

Several said they had been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, grappling with survivor’s guilt, or even feeling alienated from the rest of society.

Saturday’s commemorations are to wrap up with a minute of silence at the Stade de France in the evening before the kick-off for a game between France and Kazakhstan.

It was during a football match between France and Germany that three suicide bombers blew themselves up in 2015.

Then-French president Francois Hollande was one of the 80,000 people in the crowd, before he was discreetly whisked away to avoid triggering mass panic.

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