Terrorism Attacks

Raids and a Suicide Bomber in Paris

Police operation on the streets of St. Denis. Source: AP
Police operation on the streets of St. Denis.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    • Europe is in a state of high alert as France hunts those linked with Friday’s terror attacks, both at home and abroad.
    •  
  • Facts

    Facts

    • France on Tuesday invoked the E.U.’s mutual assistance clause for the first time, saying it expected help with French operations in Syria, Iraq and Africa.
    • Germany said it could send more troops to relieve French forces stationed in Mali, but held back from direct involvement in Syria.
    • Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his fleet in the eastern Mediterranean to cooperate with a French naval force due to arrive there.
  • Audio

    Audio

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The streets of Paris were again filled with the sound of explosions Wednesday morning after a woman detonated a suicide vest during a police raid in the suburb of Saint-Denis.

Police raided the apartment in a deprived neighborhood some 2 kilometers north of the Stade de France, one of the sites of Friday’s killings, as part of a hunt for the people who masterminded the attacks that saw 129 people killed and 350 injured.

This morning, the Paris prosecutor’s office stated that the woman died after detonating the vest. French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve said later that another person had been killed by a grenade in the raid. He added that seven people had also been arrested.

Mr. Cazeneuve said police had raided the apartment in pursuit of Abdel-Hamid Abu Oud who is suspected to have masterminded the attacks on Friday evening. Officials have not confirmed whether he was captured in the raid.

French police said five officers were also injured in the operation.

The early morning raid, accompanied by the sound of helicopters, heavy gunfire and a series of explosions, has added to the tense atmosphere across Europe.

Two Air France flights en route to Paris from the United States were diverted Tuesday because of bomb threats. And last night, German police cancelled an international soccer match in Hanover between Germany and the Netherlands less than two hours before kick off because of security concerns.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's promise of “any support” for France didn’t stretch to direct military involvement in the Syrian civil war.

But despite these high profile concerns, France’s European Union partners still responded hesitantly after the nation took the unprecedented step of invoking an E.U. treaty clause calling for logistical and possibly military assistance.

Paris sent a clear message on Tuesday that it expects support from other countries in the European Union in its fight against Islamic State terrorism. But it may not get what it’s asking for, despite verbal pledges of unshakable solidarity.

The clearest message of support came from a country that was not asked: Russia. President Vladimir Putin has told his military to treat the French “as allies” in future and ordered the Russian navy in the eastern Mediterranean to coordinate its actions on the sea and in the air with the French navy.

That’s the kind of determined, concrete promise of assistance France would have liked to hear from E.U. nations.

But instead Tuesday’s emergency meeting of E.U. defense ministers in Brussels showed that many E.U. nations regard increased military engagement against IS as too costly and too risky.

The German government too is concerned that major assistance could put Germany in the crosshairs of IS. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s promise of “any support” for France didn’t stretch to direct military involvement in the Syrian civil war.

The French by contrast have a very clear view of what the E.U. solidarity should look like. French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called on nations to support France “with the interventions in Syria and in Iraq” or relieve it in its military missions in Mali and Central African Republic.

France wants to withdraw some of its armed forces from these crisis-hit regions and deploy them to the Middle East.

It’s still unclear whether the other 27 E.U. states will make a substantial offer of assistance. Details of help will be discussed between France and individual E.U. governments, said E.U. foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

The German government will seek a parliamentary mandate to increase the deployment of German troops against Islamists in northern Mali from 150 at present to several hundred soldiers. Sources in Berlin said Paris was “very pleased” at that offer which could allow France to redeploy some of its 3,000 soldiers serving in the Sahel region as part of the U.N. mission there.

German has also said it will continue to provide weapons and training personnel for Kurdish forces fighting IS. Germany has already delivered 1,800 tons of weapons and equipment to Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq, including 20,000 rifles and 1,000 anti-tank rockets. At present just under 100 German soldiers are stationed there and have trained 4,700 Kurdish soldiers as well as fighters from the religious minorities of Yazidis and Kakai.

Other nations have been less forthcoming. Spain ruled out joining air strikes on Syria, but it didn’t rule out logistical help. It insisted that any military action it was involved in would have to be led by the E.U. and approved by the United Nations.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said he was opposed to “emotional reactions.” He added that “people must be told that the problem can’t be solved with the push of a button. It will take months and years.”

Britain, which has yet to join international air strikes in Syria, said it was ready to consider any French request for assistance. British Prime Minister David Cameron said: “We cannot expect, we should not expect, others to carry the burdens and risks of protecting our country.”

Mr. Cameron has called “absurd” the current situation where Britain is carrying out air strikes on IS in Iraq but not over the border in Syria. He is reported to be ready to take that step but faces resistance from British lawmakers.

“Raqqa (in Syria), if you like, is the head of the snake,” he told the British parliament on Tuesday. “Over Syria we are supporting our allies the U.S., France, Jordan and the Gulf countries with intelligence, with surveillance and with refueling. But I believe, as I have said many times before, we should be doing more.”

 

From Where Will Attacks on I.S. Be Launched-01

 

 

France now faces weeks of bilateral talks to garner as much concrete help as it can. “We need medical teams, air refueling, transport capacity, anything that helps us,” said a defense ministry spokesman.

The United States, meanwhile, has intensified its military cooperation with the French, providing them with target coordinates and promising to intensify intelligence cooperation.

Mr. Hollande will meet President Barack Obama in Washington on November 24 and then Mr. Putin in Moscow two days later.

Part of the hesitation in the United States and Europe to help France stems from the fact that there is still a fundamental disagreement between Washington and Moscow over the question of what is to be done with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The Kremlin views the Syrian despot as guarantor of stability while Mr. Obama sees him as a tyrannical arsonist whose brutal suppression of the Sunni majority led to the rise of IS.

The U.S. believes that Mr. Assad needs to go in order to end the Syrian conflict, although Mr. Obama is not insisting on regime change as a precondition for peace talks. He is raising the prospect of more bombing missions and more special forces raids but he is ruling out dispatching combat troops to Syria. He believes that the war against the caliphate of terror can only be won if local forces ensure stability, a line backed by the German and French governments.

But in the meantime, Europe is doing what it can to address the issue of funding. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble promised to speed up the exchange of information on suspicious money transfers after Germany has long been criticized for dragging its feet in implementing international agreements to combat money laundering.

At the G20 summit which took place in Turkey on Sunday and Monday, Mr. Schäuble said he would push the E.U. to freeze the accounts of known terrorists more quickly. In a report to the G20, the Financial Action Task Force, an inter-governmental body, said this was taking far too long in Europe.

The German finance ministry will also step up its surveillance of new digital payment methods such as the Bitcoin system in the coming weeks.

German officials have realized that the so-called Hawala system, an informal transfer system used in Muslim counties, is also working via the Internet.

That won’t help much against IS, though. “IS mainly finances itself through the possibilities offered by the area it controls: taxes, oil reserves, ransom money,” said Eelco Kessels of the Global Center on Cooperative Security in London.

So far it has been impossible to prevent the sale of IS oil in Turkey and North Africa. The U.S. Treasury estimates that those oil revenues amount to some $500 million per year.

 

Meera Selva is an editor for Handelsblatt Global Edition. Ruth Berschens reports for Handelsblatt from Paris, and Thomas Hanke leads Handelsblatt’s political coverage from Berlin. Yasmin Osman, Donata Riedel and Katharina Slodczyz contributed to this report. To contact the authors: selva@handelsblatt.com, berschens@handelsblatt.com and hanke@handelsblatt.com 

 

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