Germany arrests three with links to Paris attack

2015-11-17 15:36
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Berlin - A special German task force arrested three people near the western German city of Aachen as part of a Europe-wide search for a suspect in the Paris terrorist attacks, police say.

"We received information that one of the fugitives connected with Paris could be staying in our area," a police spokesperson said on Tuesday. 

The circumstances surrounding the arrests in the town of Alsdorf, near the border with the Netherlands, have not been released.

The identities of those arrested have also not been disclosed.

A manhunt is underway for Salah Abdeslam, a 26-year-old Frenchman who is said to possibly have been an eighth attacker in the shootings and bombings that left at least 132 people dead and about 350 injured in Paris on Friday. His brother was among the assailants who died.

Abdeslam was in Germany and Austria about two months ago, officials said.

He travelled from Germany to Austria on September 9th with two companions, an Austrian Interior Ministry spokesperson said on Tuesday.

Abdeslam was dropped off on Saturday in Brussels by two men who picked him up in Paris, the Belga news agency quoted judicial sources as saying. The two men, 27-year-old Mohammed Amri and 21-year-old Hamza Attouh, have been arrested in Belgium on terrorism charges.

Abdeslam called Amri on Friday night asking to be picked up, Amri's lawyer told Belga. The Paris attacks were not discussed during the trip and Amri and Attouh did not see any weapons, the lawyer said.

Also on Tuesday, police in Paris recovered a black Renault Clio car that was rented by Abdeslam, Belgian and French media reported. Police searches were also carried out at an apartment and two hotel rooms in the Paris suburbs amid suspicions that they were used by the attackers, according to French media.

Neighbouring France and Belgium are on high alert, with Belgium on Tuesday announcing that it was deploying up to 300 additional soldiers on its territory to help guard sensitive locations.

France could face another terrorist attack "at any time", Prime Minister Manuel Valls also told the France Inter broadcaster on Tuesday.

His Socialist government has pledged to raise spending on national security, increase airstrikes against Islamist strongholds in Syria, and adopt a national security package in response to the deadliest attack the nation has faced since WWII.

President Francois Hollande announced the measures in a rare address to both house of parliament on Monday, in which he also said the constitution needed to be revised in the face of terrorist threats.

New legislation - expected to propose quicker deportation for suspect foreigners and the possibility to strip double passport holders convicted of terrorism of their French nationality - is going to be presented to parliament on Thursday, Valls said.

"In order to safeguard the security of French people, sometimes a certain number of our liberties have to be curtailed," the prime minister warned.

Earlier, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told another broadcaster, France Info, that 128 houses had been searched overnight as part of anti-terrorism efforts. His aides told AFP that 10 people were taken in for questioning following the raids.

Cazeneuve said a total of 115 000 policemen and soldiers had been mobilised following the November 13 multi-pronged attacks on Paris, which the Islamic State extremist group has claimed responsibility for.

"We don't have yet a global picture of the number of people involved" in the attacks, Valls said.

France has urged greater efforts from EU partners and the rest of the international community against the Islamic State.

'Despicable ideology'

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Hollande at the Elysee palace and pledged closer US co-operation, after saying upon arriving in Paris on Monday night that the terrorist group and all who share its "despicable ideology" would be defeated.

In response to the attacks, France has also for the first time ever invoked the European Union's mutual defence clause, which states that EU countries have "an obligation of aid and assistance" if a member state is "the victim of armed aggression on its territory".

Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that his country expects assistance from other EU countries for military operations it is carrying out in Syria and elsewhere.

"France can no longer do everything - be at the same in the Sahel, the Central African Republic, Lebanon, be in the counter-attack operation in the Levant and on top of that ensure with our own forces the security of the national territory," Le Drian said in Brussels.

The move had been announced by Hollande in his Monday speech to parliament, in which he also called on the bloc to toughen border controls and migrant repatriation, act against weapon smuggling and approve by December a common record of air passengers' data.

Read more on:    isis  |  germany  |  us  |  france  |  paris under attack

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