French PM warns of risk of chemical, biological attack, calls on Europe to share jet passenger info

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls warned lawmakers of the danger of chemical or biological attacks in France on Nov 19, 2015.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls warned lawmakers of the danger of chemical or biological attacks in France on Nov 19, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP) - French Prime Minister Manuel Valls warned on Thursday (Nov 19) of the danger of an attack in France using "chemical or biological weapons", in a speech to lawmakers debating the extension of a state of emergency.

"We must not rule anything out," Mr Valls said. "There is also the risk from chemical or biological weapons," he added, as parliament debated measures to be taken in the wake of the Islamist attacks in Paris.

Mr Valls also called on Europe to urgently adopt measures to share airline passenger information in the wake of the terror attacks in Paris.

"More than ever, it's time for Europe to adopt the text... to guarantee the traceability of movements, including within the union. It's a condition of our collective security," he told lawmakers debating the extension of a state of emergency.

French lawmakers on Thursday were to begin debating whether to extend the state of emergency declared after last week's attacks to February, and expand it to allow suspects to be placed under house arrest.

According to a directive from police commanders issued on Thursday following the Paris attacks, French police officers will be able to carry weapons when they are off duty.

They will also be allowed to use their guns in the event of a terror attack providing they wear a police armband to avoid "any confusion", the directive seen by AFP says.

French police were also on Thursday sifting through the wreckage from a huge raid targeting the suspected mastermind of the Paris attacks as lawmakers prepared to vote on extending a state of emergency.

Investigators have yet to confirm whether the body of Abdelhamid Abaaoud was among the rubble of an apartment block after a seven-hour siege in a northern district of Paris on Wednesday.

At least two were killed in the operation - a woman thought to have blown herself up with a suicide vest and another body found riddled with bullets, according to Paris prosecutor Francois Molins.

Eight people were arrested, but neither Abaaoud, the Belgian suspected of orchestrating the worst-ever militant attack on French soil, nor Salah Abdeslam, suspected of taking part with his suicide-bomber brother Brahim, were among those held.

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Russia was open to cooperation against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)

"There is an opening, so to speak, with the Russians. We think they are sincere and we must bring together all our forces," Mr Fabius told France Inter radio.

But world powers remain divided over the future of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is strongly backed by Russia.

US President Barack Obama reiterated on Thursday that Syria's civil war could not end unless Assad leaves power.

Unconfirmed police sources, cited by France 2 television, said the group targeted in the apartment was a fourth team in addition to the three involved in Friday's attack.

It may have been planning to strike Charles de Gaulle airport north of Paris and the La Defense business district on the city's western rime, they said.

Severe damage to the building and the state of the bodies made it impossible to know exactly how many had been killed and who they were, the prosecutor said.

"A new team of terrorists was neutralised and all indications are that given their arms, their organisational structure and their determination, the commando could have struck."

As details were still emerging of the shootout, US intelligence published a report showing it warned in May that IS was capable of carrying out the kind of large-scale, coordinated attacks seen in Paris.

The assessment from the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, in coordination with the FBI, specifically refers to Abaaoud as a ringleader of Belgian plotters and warned Europe was more at risk of attack than the US.

Abaaoud is a 28-year-old ISIS fighter who was previously thought to be in Syria after fleeing raids in his native Belgium earlier this year.

In Belgium, where some of the attackers lived, it emerged prosecutors had questioned the two Abdeslam brothers before the attacks "but they had shown no signs of being a potential threat".

Hundreds of Belgians joined a candlelight vigil in solidarity with the victims of the Paris attacks on Wednesday in Molenbeek, the troubled Brussels neighbourhood where the brothers lived.

In Sweden, police were hunting for a man suspected of "planning a terrorist act", who media reported was an Iraqi who had fought in Syria.

ISIS, meanwhile, released a new video threatening New York, and specifically Times Square, although police said there was no "current and specific" threat.

The attacks were unprecedented in France, which was shaken to its core for the second time in a year after 17 people were shot dead by jihadists at Charlie Hebdo magazine, on the streets and in a Jewish supermarket in January.

Citing security fears, the government has cancelled two mass rallies scheduled to take place on November 29 and December 12, the days before and after a key UN climate summit.

President Francois Hollande said the "particularly perilous" operation in Saint-Denis proved France was involved in a "war against terrorism".

But he urged the nation not to "give in to fear" or reprisals in the wake of the attacks.

"No anti-Semitic or anti-Muslim act can be tolerated," he said.

Hours later, a Jewish teacher in the southern city of Marseille was stabbed by three people shouting anti-Semitic obscenities and expressing support for the Islamic State group, local police said.

The 57-year-old man was wounded in the arms, legs and stomach but was not in a life-threatening condition.

Amid continuing nervousness across Europe, a plane carrying 161 passengers from Poland to Egypt was forced to make an emergency landing when a man on board claimed there were explosives on board. He was taken into custody.