Paris probe widens across Europe

People paying their respects at one of the attack sites in Paris yesterday. The violence claimed 129 lives and injured 352, including 99 in a serious condition.
People paying their respects at one of the attack sites in Paris yesterday. The violence claimed 129 lives and injured 352, including 99 in a serious condition.PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS • The European authorities widened investigations yesterday into the wave of shootings and bombings in Paris claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), as France reeled from the bloodiest terror attack in its history.

Paris prosecutor Francois Molins told reporters that three militant cells staged the coordinated hits at bars, a concert hall and soccer stadium, killing 129 people and injuring 352, including 99 who were in a serious condition.

He said seven gunmen - not eight as earlier reported - died in the multiple assaults. All of the men were wearing suicide vests packed with explosives. Two blew themselves up in the Bataclan concert hall while one was shot by police. Three also detonated their explosives outside the Stade de France stadium, where France were playing Germany in a football friendly. The seventh blew himself up on a bustling avenue near the concert hall.

Another French government official said the authorities were looking for a potential eighth attacker who might have escaped, after ISIS claimed it had sent eight people for the assaults.

The first attacker identified was French national Omar Ismail Mostefai, 29, whose severed finger was found among the carnage at the Bataclan hall, the scene of the worst bloodshed with 89 killed. French police yesterday detained six people close to Mostefai.

Prosecutors have said the slaughter - claimed by ISIS as revenge for French military action in Syria and Iraq - appeared to involve a multinational team with links to the Middle East, Belgium and possibly Germany, as well as France. Belgian police have arrested several suspects in Brussels, while the German authorities are probing a possible link to a man recently found with a car full of weapons.

Further evidence emerged that at least one of the attackers had travelled through Europe alongside Syrian refugees, seeking asylum in Serbia. The attacks have reignited a row within the European Union on how to handle the asylum seekers.

The French capital was strikingly quiet again yesterday, on the first of three days of national mourning, as residents struggled to come to terms with the terror attacks. Museums and theatres remained closed for a second day, with hundreds of soldiers and police patrolling the streets after French President Francois Hollande declared a state of emergency. The Paris stock exchange operator said it would open trading as normal today while schools will also open nationwide.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said the bodies of 103 victims had been identified.

"These are not anonymous victims. They are... young people targeted while they spent a quiet evening in a cafe or at a concert," he told reporters.

At least 23 foreigners were among the victims, including citizens of Belgium, Spain, the United States, Chile and Mexico.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 16, 2015, with the headline 'Paris probe widens across Europe'. Print Edition | Subscribe