By Ahmed Abbas
The French authorities carried out more than 160 raids on militant targets in different areas in France early Monday.
“We are making use of the legal framework of the state of emergency to question people who are part of the radical jihadist movement… and all those who advocate hate of the republic,” said French Prime Minister Manuel Valls. He added that Friday’s attacks by Islamist militants in Paris were organised from Syria.
A French official told AP agency that the alleged mastermind of the Paris attacks was identified as Belgian-born Abdelhamid Abaaoud. Abaaoud is believed to be in Syria.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said that 104 people have been placed under house arrest and 168 raids took place last night. He added that 23 people have been arrested. “Let this be clear to everyone, this is just the beginning, these actions are going to continue,” he added.
Belgian media said a building in the district of Molenbeek in Brussels was also raided. Belgian broadcaster RTL reported that police have arrested Salah Abdeslam, suspected of being involved in the Paris attacks, in the Belgian suburb of Molenbeek.
Five of the seven attackers were identified over the weekend. On Monday another two were named by the Paris prosecutor as Ahmad Al-Mohammad and Samy Amimour.
Meanwhile, the Egyptian Deputy Consul in Paris Serenad Gamil confirmed that Egyptian national Salah El-Gebaly, 28, was killed in the Batacalan attacks on Friday.
Gamil told the Egyptian official news agency that the embassy contacted the French authorities and verified the identity of El-Gebaly. The embassy also contacted his family to organise moving his body to Egypt.
Another French-Egyptian female, identified as Lamia Mondeguer, was reportedly killed as well.
A 27-year-old young Egyptian, Waleed Abdel Razik, was injured in the same attacks. He is currently in critical condition.
French warplanes carried out several air strikes on “Islamic State” strongholds in Syria on Sunday in the largest French air raids on Syria to date. “The raid … including 10 fighter jets, was launched simultaneously from the United Arab Emirates and Jordan. Twenty bombs were dropped,” said the French Minister of Defence Jean-Yves Le Drian. He also said in a statement that the first target destroyed was used by IS as a command post, jihadist recruitment centre and arms and munitions depot. The second held a terrorist training camp.
France has been bombing “Islamic State” positions in Iraq and Syria for months as part of a US-led operation.
Russian air forces are performing operations near the same locations as well. Regarding any possible coordination between the both sides in Syria, Mohammed Mansour, a blogger on military issues, believes any coordination between Russia and France will be in the narrowest limits.
“I think that they will coordinate in the narrowest limits on the ground in order to avoid any clashes as Russia and the US-led coalition are bombarding the surrounding of Al-Raqqa,” he said. He added that this coordination may be increased if France decided to deploy troops on the ground. “This could push Russia to widen this coordination as it has troops on the ground,” Mansour said.
Meanwhile, British Prime Minster David Cameron announced that Britain will increase intelligence agency staff by 15% and more than double the spending on aviation security to defend against Islamist militants plotting attacks from Syria. “We have been aware of these cells operating in Syria that are radicalising people in our own countries, potentially sending people back to carry out attacks,” Cameron told BBC radio.
Mansour believes governments should not announce such news. “I think these kinds of declarations target the local society in the UK, as Cameron wants to reassure his people, who are concerned over possible attacks,” said Mansour.
The Paris attacks were Europe’s deadliest since the 2004 Madrid train bombings.