In a extraordinary address to both houses of Parliament on Monday, President Francoise Hollande >pledged a raft of measures that his government intends to put in place to meet the challenge posed by the Daish (Islamic State) both domestically and internationally. Calling the acts of terror – >the second major attack since the killings this January of journalists working for the >satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo – as an “act of war”, a resolute President said that France will step up the frequency of air strikes against Daish bases in Syria, while beefing up the authority of the state apparatus even if that required amending France’s constitution.
A proposal to extend the state of emergency for another three months would be put for Parliament’s approval on Wednesday, Mr. Hollande said. In this time he will seek to introduce constitutional amendments that would give the government emergency-like powers without calling a state of emergency. Included in these new powers would be the right to take away citizenship rights from those citizens who present a serious risk to public order, he said.
The French President also promised to beef up the country’s police and armed forces. He intends to draft in 5000 addition police personnel, create 2500 extra posts in the country’s prison and judicial services, create 1000 more positions in the customs and border agency, and increase the technological capabilities of the defence sector.
The French Police have identified the person who planned the Paris attacks and three of the seven suicide attackers who struck the City of Light last Friday.
The mastermind: Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a 27-year-old Belgian. He was linked to the attack on a Paris-bound train in August and a plot to attack a Paris Church in April.
Where is he now?
Abaaoud was first named by the police as a wanted extremist after a gun battle in eastern Belgium in January during a raid on an IS cell. He is now believed to be in Syria.
Samy Amimour, a 28-year-old Frenchman, was one of the suicide bombers at the Bataclan. He was allegedly charged in a probe in 2012 and placed under judicial supervision. But he dropped off the radar. Omar Mostefai is the other Bataclan assailant to have been identified.
One of the two suicide attackers who struck the Stada de France stadium was carrying the passport of 26-year-old Ahmad Almohammad. The passport has not been verified, but the fingerprints matched those of someone who entered Europe through Greece in October.
Brahim Abdeslam, brother of fugitive attacker Salah Abdeslam, carried out the suicide attack at Boulevard Voltaire.
French prosecutors had >conducted 168 overnight raids in France, Mr. Hollande said, and have put 104 persons under house arrest. He vowed that the air strikes against Syria will continue. “France is at war and we will intensify attacks. >Syria is the biggest factory of terrorism and the international community is not coherent in its response,” he said. In a departure from France’s current posture on the Syrian crisis, which is to equate the Daish and the Syrian state under President Bashar al Assad, Mr. Hollande said he would meet not just US President Barack Obama, but Russian President Vladmir Putin to urge them to unite their forces against the Islamic State.
Meanwhile there was a >major breakthrough on Monday in the investigations into the terror plot that killed 129 people at three different venues in Paris on Friday night with the >identification of the alleged mastermind of the attack, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian national who is currently in Syria.
French prosecutors have so far named five of the seven suicide bombers, and are now on the lookout for 26-year old Salah Abdeslam who is said to be one of the three brothers linked to the attacks. The attackers have been identified as Syrian-born Ahmed Almohammad, French-born Samy Amimour, French national Omar Ismail Mostefai, who was identified by his severed finger found in the carnage at the Bataclan concert hall; Bilal Hadfi, who detonated his suicide vest near the Stade de France, and Brahim Abdeslam (brother of Salah Abdeslam), who killed himself outside a restaurant in Paris.
France came to a silent standstill for a moment at noon on Monday to honour and remember its citizens who died in the terrorist attacks across Paris on the night of November 13. President Francoise Holland led the homage from campus of the Sorbonne University in recognition of the overwhelmingly young victims of the assault. In the historic Hotel de Ville or City Hall, Mayor of Paris Ann Hidalgo and her administration’s workforce gathered in the Salle des Fetes, one of the building’s ceremonial halls, to mark the moment. Many sobbed quietly, comforted by their colleagues.
Offices and schools reopened today bringing a semblance of normalcy back to the city. Vigils for those who died continued at the sites of the bombings and at the Place de la Republique.