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Paris attacks: International manhunt for terror suspect, 150 raids across France

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PARIS — French and Belgian authorities pressed urgent national manhunts for terror suspects Monday as Parisians returned to work and school, jittery but resolute in the aftermath of Friday’s attacks that left at least 129 people dead.

The French resolve to answer the bloodthirsty rampage across Paris was also on display in Raqqa, Syria, where French warplanes on Sunday bombarded the city that serves as the de facto capital for ISIS.

The Islamic extremist group has claimed responsibility for sending teams of attackers armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles and suicide vests to attack targets around Paris.

French police carried out raids around the country overnight into Monday, seizing weapons that included a rocket launcher, officials said.

While police said seven of the terrorists were dead — either shot by officers or blown up by their own suicide vests — an international manhunt is underway for one suspect who has already managed to slip through the fingers of authorities at least once.

Suspect at large described as dangerous

The suspect, Salah Abdeslam, is a 26-year-old French citizen who was born in Belgium, French police said in a public request for information, warning that he is dangerous and not to be approached. Belgium has issued an international warrant for his arrest.

Investigators haven’t said much about how they believe Abdeslam is tied to the shootings and bombings that targeted people at restaurants, bars, a concert venue and a sports stadium.

The French newspaper Le Monde reported that he rented the black Volkswagen Polo that was found outside the Bataclan concert hall where three attackers massacred at least 89 people before blowing themselves up or being shot by police.

Questioned by police, then let go

Jean-Pascal Thoreau, a spokesman for Belgium’s federal prosecutor, said Abdeslam is one of three brothers suspected of involvement in the rampage of violence. One of the brothers was killed in the attacks, and another was arrested by Belgian police, he said.

Salah Abdeslam had been questioned by French police earlier but was not detained, a source close to the investigation into the Paris attacks said.

He was driving in the direction of the Belgian border a few hours after the attacks when officers stopped him, the source said. Now, his whereabouts are unknown.

Le Monde reported that police hadn’t yet linked him to the Paris attacks when they stopped him and two other people in a black Volkswagen Golf. When Belgian police stopped the car later Saturday, Abdeslam was no longer in it.

On Monday, police had blocked off two streets in an active standoff in Molenbeek, a suburb of Brussels, Belgium, with a history of links to terrorism plots. Police in balaclavas surrounded a building and were using a megaphone to command someone to come out, a CNN team on the ground reported.

No one was arrested, Thoreau said. Belgian state broadcaster RTBF, citing the country’s Federal Justice Department, had previously reported that police made one arrest but had not apprehended Abdeslam.

Car found with weapons inside

Le Monde reported that Salah Abdeslam’s older brother Ibrahim was the suicide bomber whose explosives detonated at a cafe on boulevard Voltaire in eastern Paris during the wave of attacks on the city. The Paris prosecutor’s office has identified that attacker as a 31-year-old French citizen but hasn’t disclosed his name.

According to Le Monde, Ibrahim Abdeslam rented the black Seat car that authorities say was used in the string of deadly attacks on restaurants and bars on Friday. But it’s not yet clear whether he was in the vehicle at the time of the attacks, the newspaper said.

The Seat was found abandoned in the eastern Paris suburb of Montreuil with three Kalashnikov automatic rifles inside, CNN affiliate BFMTV reported Sunday.

Other suspected attackers have been identified, including Ismael Omar Mostefai, a 29-year-old French citizen from the Paris suburbs who authorities say was radicalized in 2010 but wasn’t known to be associated with a terrorist group. Mostefai was one of the three terrorists who stormed the Bataclan concert hall, according to officials.

On Monday, the Paris prosecutor’s office identified another of the Bataclan attackers as Samy Amimour, a 28-year-old from the Parisian suburb of Drancy.

Amimour was known to have links to terrorists and had been the subject of an international arrest warrant since 2013 after violating the judicial supervision he had been placed under, the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

He was placed under supervision in 2012 after anti-terrorism authorities investigated an aborted attempt to travel to Yemen, the statement said.

Raids across France

Police have carried out more than 150 raids under the country’s state of emergency since Friday, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said.

Raids occurred in Paris, Toulouse and Grenoble, French media reported.

The raids targeted people on a special watch list, Valls said.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Monday that a rocket launcher and bulletproof vest were among the items seized. He said he had ordered that 104 people be put under house arrest since the attacks.

In Belgium, at least seven people were arrested in weekend raids connected to the Paris attacks, officials said. Those arrested were in contact with the Paris attackers, a senior Belgian counterterrorism source told CNN. No weapons or explosives were found.

Stadium attacker believed to have fought in Syria

Authorities have also released names for two of the suicide bombers who set off their explosives outside the Stade de France, the national stadium where France’s soccer team was playing Germany’s.

One is Bilal Hadfi, who is reported to have been a 20-year-old French citizen living in Belgium.

Guy van Vlierden, a Belgian terrorism expert, said Hadfi is thought to have fought in Syria, where he went by the names Abu Moudjahid Al-Belgiki and Bilal Al Mouhajir.

Hadfi appears to have traveled to Syria last spring, van Vlierden said, citing analysis of his social media postings and other communications.

At least three of the terrorists involved in Friday’s attacks in France have spent time in Syria, a French official told CNN Sunday. The official did not specify who those three attackers were.

On Monday, CNN affiliate BFM reported that French officials believe that five of the people directly involved in the attacks had spent time in Syria.

Syrian passport holder linked to refugee flow

Attention is also heavily focused on a Syrian passport found near the body of another of the three Stade de France bombers.

The first stadium attacker was carrying the passport, a French senator who was briefed by the Interior Ministry told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. French officials have determined that the bomber was among a group of Syrian refugees who arrived on the Greek island of Leros on October 3.

The senator told CNN that the man was carrying the passport and also a registration document for refugee status by Greek authorities. The fingerprints of the passport holder taken by Greek authorities match those of the terrorist who blew himself up at the Stade de France, the senator said.

The Paris prosecutor’s office on Monday confirmed the link, saying the passport bearing the name of Ahmad Al Mohammad, a 25-year-old from Idlib, still needs to be verified.

Refugee concerns intensify

The alleged link between one of the attackers and the wave of refugees from the Syrian war flocking to Europe this year has intensified concerns about how to handle the massive influx of people.

“The fear that terrorists are hiding amongst refugees will increase and will be used by anti-immigrant politicians,” said Karen Jacobsen, who directs the Refugees and Forced Migration program at Tufts University’s Feinstein International Center.

But she said measures like “sealing borders with razor wire and having police on trains requesting papers” won’t prevent desperate refugees from reaching Europe.

“The United States and Europe must work together to find reasonable ways to manage the current refugee flow into Europe and to utilize more creative and effective intelligence to monitor terrorist plans,” Jacobsen wrote in an opinion article for CNN.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Monday in a radio interview that “the attack was organized, conceived, and planned from Syria.”

He warned that France needed “to prepare ourselves for further attacks.”

“Terrorism can strike, has struck — though we have avoided several attacks — and could strike again, now, in the coming days, in the coming weeks.”

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