PARIS (CBSNewYork/AP) — As French authorities identified the suspected mastermind behind the Paris attacks last week, the Islamic State group released a video Monday showing its fighters in Iraq vowing to attack Washington.
“As we struck France in the center of its abode in Paris, then we swear that we will strike America at its center in Washington,” an ISIS militant says in the video.
The nearly 12-minute video shows unidentified fighters praising Friday’s attacks in Paris, which killed 129 people, and calling on Muslims in France to “ignite and kill soldiers and tyrants.”
One fighter says Muslims should strike in the West because the U.S.-led coalition is targeting IS in Iraq.
Another fighter warned nations that are taking part in the “Crusaders’ campaign,” saying that as “we struck France on its ground in Paris we will strike America on its ground in Washington.”
But as CBS2’s Dick Brennan reported, President Barack Obama stood defiant Monday against the threat at the G20 summit in Turkey.
“France is already a strong counter-terrorism partner and today we’re announcing a new agreement,” he said. “We’re streamlining the process through which we share intelligence with France. This will allow our personnel to pass threat information, including on ISIL, to our French partners even more quickly and more often.”
The Obama administration on Monday also announced a new intelligence-sharing arrangement with France designed to more readily and quickly allow joint military planning in the campaign against the Islamic State.
The Pentagon issued a statement saying that Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper have authorized military personnel to share information quickly with their French counterparts.
Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook did not provide details about the kinds of intelligence that would be shared but said the new instructions build on efforts made over the past year to work more closely with French military, intelligence and security services to target the Islamic State.
Current and former American intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said Washington already maintains extremely close counter terrorism cooperation with Paris. The new sharing mainly involves military intelligence in Syria and Iraq, they said. Bureaucratic hurdles slow the exchange of such information, even among allies.
The new arrangement would allow the U.S. to share intelligence with France that previously has been limited to what’s known as the “Five Eyes” of English-speaking countries – the U.S., Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The intelligence would allow France to increase its ability to identify and propose targets to be hit by airstrikes, officials say.
In a historic speech, French President François Hollande also asked a joint session of parliament to extend the state of emergency in France for three months, which would give the government extra police powers, among other changes.
“France is at war,” Hollande said. “The acts committed in Paris on Friday evening, these are acts of war.”
The request comes as more than 150 raids were carried out overnight and Monday across France and Belgium.
Meanwhile, Abdelhamid Abaaoud was identified by French authorities as the presumed mastermind of the operation. He is a Belgian citizen of Moroccan descent who had gone to fight in Syria, where he’s believed to be now, CBS News reported.
What’s more, one French official told The Associated Press, Abaaoud is believed to have links to earlier terror attacks that were thwarted: one against a Paris-bound high-speed train that was foiled by three young Americans in August, and the other against a church in the French capital’s suburbs.
“All my life, I have seen the blood of Muslims flow,” Abaaoud said in a video made public in 2014. “I pray that Allah will break the backs of those who oppose him, his soldiers and his admirers, and that he will exterminate them.”
Belgian authorities suspect him of also helping organize and finance a terror cell in the eastern city of Verviers that was broken up in an armed police raid on Jan. 15, in which two of his presumed accomplices were killed.
The following month, Abaaoud was quoted by the Islamic State group’s English-language magazine, Dabiq, as saying that he had secretly returned to Belgium to lead the terror cell and then escaped to Syria in the aftermath of the raid despite having his picture broadcast across the news.
“I was even stopped by an officer who contemplated me so as to compare me to the picture, but he let me go, as he did not see the resemblance!” Abaaoud boasted.
There was no official comment from the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office about Abaaoud’s reported role in the Paris attacks, but Belgian police over the weekend announced the arrest of three suspects in Molenbeek, his old neighborhood, and were carrying out numerous searches there Monday.
The search also continued late Monday the eighth and only surviving terrorist in the Paris attack – Saleh Abdeslam, 26.
In France, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said police arrested 23 people and recovered a Kalashnikov and other weapons during the overnight raids.
Heavily armed Belgian police also launched a major operation in Molenbeek, which authorities consider to be a focal point for extremists and fighters going to Syria from Belgium.
Belgium has also been described by experts as a weak link in the War on Terror.
“False papers, false passports, weapon trade are flourishing in certain suburbs of Brussels, like in Molenbeek, and we absolutely have to counter these things,” said Belgium Minister of Justice Koen Geens.
President Obama has rejected American boots on the ground in Syria – a move that has triggered criticism by Republicans.
“Unfortunately, we had predicted that we were not defeating ISIS and they are certainly not contained, and we need boots on the ground and we need a strategy — not just more of the same,” said U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) “More of the same doesn’t get it.”
Obama also said it was shameful that 15 states in the U.S. for now will not accept European refugees. The move came after news that one of the Paris attackers may have slipped into Greece posing as one.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said the decision not to accept refugees was a safety issue.
“As the FBI director himself made clear, as the United States federal government has made clear, they do not have the capability to distinguish between those refugees who can pose as terrorists and those who may be innocent,” he said.
Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush have advised focusing on Christian refugees. Obama responded that the nation does not have a religious test for compassion.
A City Realizing Things Have Changed Forever
Meanwhile in Paris Monday, the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre Museum – icons that say France to all the world – reopened Monday after a weekend shutdown due to concerns about further terror.
As CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported, the Eiffel Tower was once again lit up in the national colors of bleu, blanc et rouge late Monday – stirring pride in people still reeling from the terrorist attack.
“It was a horrible experience,” said New York publicist Erin Allweiss said in the late night hours. “I was with a group of friends at dinner and we heard gunshots right outside of it.”
Allweiss was in a restaurant as terrorists prepared to open fire. She and others dove onto the floor and hid under chairs and tables for several hours.
“It’s just the senselessness of these attacks and I am absolutely heartbroken, and I think that what we see behind us in Republique with people gathering is a testament to people who want peace,” said Allweiss, of Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.
Earlier, under a statue of King Louis XIV, tourists armed with selfie sticks were once again capturing memories outside the Louvre Monday. Police officers armed with machine guns were keeping watch nearby for trouble.
Electronic signs were also flashing warnings that large groups are prohibited.
“I feel safe right now,” said Dan Stiffler. “I know my family feels safe right now. I know the police and the military are doing everything they can here right now.”
But as CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported from Paris, a reminder hung from the fence at the Louvre – a picture of some of those killed by the terrorist bullets and suicide bomb vests.
Tourist Glenn Sloggett of Melbourne, Australia visited a church to pray for them.
“To take the time to really think about what had happened and so forth – because it affected – it was very, very upsetting, I must say, Sloggett said.
Fashion Institute of Technology student Katie Ellis is spending a semester in Paris. Her parents arrived to visit a few hours before the attack.
“I actually know people who have been affected by it, so yeah, it’s been a little rough,” Ellis said.
Aiello asked Ellis’ mother, Lori Stiffler, if she wished in the back of her mind that her daughter would accompany her home on Tuesday.
“You know what? No,” Lori Stiffler said. “She’s living her dream, and I really want her to live her life the way she wants to.”
Added Ellis, “I think people are just like coming back, and they know that it’s like, the only way to get through this is to just go about the normal day.”
That was the sentiment that many of the French took. At the Place de la République in the center of Paris, “Chase the devils with a thing called love” was one of the messages being scrawled on the sidewalk.
People were publicly expressing their hopes and fears, which will remain even after the next rain washes the messages away.
“I mean, people are talking about Paris being defiant. Paris is defiant,” said Simon Kuper of Paris. “Paris is also confused, scared and human. This is a place of human beings.”
Across France and throughout Europe, people paused for a minute’s silence at noon French time in memory of the victims. In New York, a memorial service is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Monday at the 9/11 memorial in Lower Manhattan.
Overnight in the military front, France launched its heaviest airstrikes yet on the Islamic State group’s de-facto capital in Syria, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said “we are at war” against terrorism.
French authorities say Sunday night’s airstrikes destroyed a jihadi training camp and a munitions dump in the city of Raqqa, where Iraqi intelligence officials say the attacks on Paris were planned.
Twelve aircraft including 10 fighter jets dropped a total of 20 bombs in the biggest air strikes since France extended its bombing campaign against the extremist group to Syria in September, a Defense Ministry statement said. The jets launched from sites in Jordan and the Persian Gulf, in coordination with U.S. forces.
Three teams of attackers including seven suicide bombers attacked the national stadium, the concert hall and nearby nightspots Friday. In addition to those killed, the attacks wounded 350 people, 99 of them seriously.
As efforts were being made to capture those behind the attacks, more details have emerged of those who carried them out.
The Paris prosecutor’s office said Monday one of the suicide bombers who blew himself up in the Bataclan music hall Friday night was Samy Amimour, a 28-year-old Frenchman charged in a terrorism investigation in 2012. Amimour was placed under judicial supervision, but dropped off authorities’ radar in 2013 and an international arrest warrant was issued.
An attacker who blew himself up outside the national soccer stadium was said to have been found with a Syrian passport with the name Ahmad Al Mohammad, a 25-year-old born in Idlib. The prosecutor’s office said fingerprints from the attacker match those of someone who passed through Greece in October.
Another, said to have been identified by the print on a recovered finger, was 29-year-old Frenchman Ismael Mostefai, who had a record of petty crime and had been flagged in 2010 for ties to Islamic radicalism.
A judicial official said police have also identified two other suicide bombers, both French nationals who’d been living in Belgium: 20-year-old Bilal Hadfi, who detonated himself outside the Stade de France; and 31-year-old Brahim Abdeslam — the brother of fugitive Salah Abdeslam who blew himself up on the Boulevard Voltaire.
An arrest warrant for Salah Abdeslam is described as very dangerous and warns people not to intervene if they see him.
Authorities identified Abdeslam as the renter of a Volkswagen Polo that carried hostage takers to the Paris theater where so many died.
French police reportedly stopped Abdeslam in a car near the Belgian border Saturday morning, but they hadn’t yet linked him to the attacks and let him go.
Abdeslam’s brother, Brhaim, died detonating a suicide vest in the attacks.
Another brother spoke out at the family’s home, CBS2’s Valerie Castro reported. When asked if he noticed anything unusual about his brothers involved in the attacks, he replied, “Absolutely nothing; they were two normal brothers.”
In claiming responsibility for the attacks, ISIS mocked France’s air attacks on its suspected targets in Syria and Iraq, and called Paris “the capital of prostitution and obscenity.”
Police now say the terrorists used encrypted texting apps to keep the plots secret, CBS2’s Diane Macedo reported.
“I’ll be very interested to see what types of phone devices they were carrying, what type of apps might have been on those devices,” NYPD Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said.
The identification of several French suspects stoked fears of homegrown terrorism in France, which has exported more jihadis than any other in Europe, and seen many return from the fight. All three gunmen in the January attacks on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper and a kosher supermarket in Paris were French.
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