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France carries out raids, names more potential attackers

By Lori Hinnant and Sylvie Corbet, Associated Press

PARIS (AP) -- French police raided 168 locations across the country and detained nearly two dozen people as authorities identified more members of a sleeper cell said to be behind the Paris attacks that killed 129 people.

French and Belgian jihadis — and at least one potential Syrian member — were being implicated Monday in what was the worst attack on French soil since World War II. The mastermind is said to be a Belgian national linked to thwarted earlier attacks on a train and a French church.

With France under a state of emergency that gives police special powers, the hunt continued for members of the cell that carried out last Friday's gun and bomb attacks.

French 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 the Molenbeek neighborhood of Brussels, which authorities consider to be a focal point for extremists and fighters going to Syria from Belgium.

Across France and throughout Europe, people paused for a minute's silence at noon French time (1100GMT) in memory of the victims.

Overnight, 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.

French authorities have identified several suspected attackers, most with links to France or Belgium.

A French official identified the suspected mastermind as Belgian Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who is said to be linked to the thwarted attacks on a Paris-bound high-speed train and a Paris area church earlier this year. The official has direct knowledge of the investigation but is not authorized to be publicly identified as speaking about the probe.

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, who blew himself up on the Boulevard Voltaire.

At least one key suspect is on the loose. The arrest warrant for 26-year-old Salah Abdeslam — brother of bomber Brahim — describes him as very dangerous and warns people not to intervene if they see him.

Read more: http://news.yahoo.com/france-bombs-islamic-state-hq-police-conduct-150-095838956.html#

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