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The Latest: Belgium raises threat level for Brussels area
The Latest: Belgium raises threat level for Brussels area
Nov. 21, 2015
BRUSSELS (AP) — The latest on the deadly attacks in Paris. (All times local):
Belgium's national Crisis Center has raised its terrorism alert to its highest level in the Brussels region.
The Crisis Center announced on its website it had raised the threat level to Level 4, which indicates a "serious and immediate threat."
The Belgian capital was home to the suspected organizer of the Nov. 13 Paris terror attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud. It also is the seat of the Belgian federal government and the headquarters of two major international institutions, the European Union and NATO.
Belgium has filed terror charges against a third suspect relating to last week's Paris attacks.
In a statement late Friday, the prosecutor's office said in a statement that "the person that was arrested yesterday has been charged by the investigating judge with participation in terrorist attacks and participation in the activities of a terrorist organization, and placed into custody."
Two other suspects are already behind bars facing similar charges.
No other details were released.
Thousands of Parisians have turned out to pay tribute to those killed in last week's attacks.
Some lit candles and sang. Some danced in the street. Others held hands in silent contemplation at the Place de la Republique, which has become a central commemoration site for the victims of the Nov. 13 massacre.
The scene was repeated at the cafes and the concert hall where most of the 130 people who died lost their lives.
The attacks, claimed by militants from the Islamic State group, started shortly before 9.20 p.m. on Nov. 13 as Parisians enjoyed a Friday night out.
The Paris prosecutor's office says a woman killed during a police raid in a Paris suburb did not blow herself up as police had previously thought.
Wednesday's raid on an apartment in Saint-Denis resulted in a seven-hour siege that ended with three people killed, including Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected architect of Friday's devastating attacks in Paris, and Hasna Aitboulahcen, the 26-year-old daughter of a Moroccan immigrant.
The Paris prosecutor's office said Wednesday that investigators believed a woman had blown herself up in the siege. Police officials later said the woman was Aitboulahcen and she was believed to have detonated a vest. On Friday, prosecutors confirmed Aitboulahcen was killed in the police raid but said she was not a suicide bomber.
A third person killed in the Saint-Denis raid remains unidentified.
Paris prosecutors have determined that two of the three suicide bombers who targeted France's national stadium north of Paris last week passed through Greece on the same day last month.
Prosecutors said in a statement that both men were checked by authorities on Oct. 3 in Greece. They did not name either man in their statement or the specific place in Greece.
A Greek official has said that a man carrying a Syrian passport with the name of Ahmad Al-Mohammad was processed Oct. 3 on the island of Leros after coming in from Turkey. The passport was found next to the body of a suicide bomber at the French stadium. Investigators are still trying to figure out whether the passport was real or fake, and whether it did belong to the attacker.
So far, just one of the suicide bombers at France's national stadium has been formally identified by name.
France's Senate has voted to extend a state of emergency for three months after last week's deadly attacks.
The state of emergency expands police powers to carry out arrests and searches and allows authorities to forbid the movement of persons and vehicles at specific times and places. France's lower chamber has already approved the measure.
The vote Friday in the Senate took place exactly one week since extremists attacked a concert hall, the stadium and several cafes and restaurants in Paris, killing 130 people and wounding hundreds. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
The European Union's top anti-terrorism official is rejecting claims that Islamic State group fighters are entering the EU hidden among refugees.
EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove said Friday that "I don't think you can say that Daesh (IS) is infiltrating Europe."
He told French broadcaster RFI/France 24 that "if there are one or two cases — and these still have to be verified — then it's probably a tactical move by Daesh to sow doubt, and to make us doubt whether we should help the refugees."
He urged people not to "fall into this kind of trap of associating immigration and terrorism."
The global police agency Interpol has welcomed the European Union's decision to connect its border control points to Interpol's vast computer database so travel documents can be screened.
Interpol chief Juergen Stock said on Friday that "every additional record made available across borders builds a new opportunity for Europe" to combat foreign fighters.
Interpol says its foreign-fighter database has details from more than 50 countries on about 6,000 people.
The EU decided on Friday to beef up security at external borders of the passport-free the 30-nation Schengen zone, within which people may travel freely. The EU also wants to introduce systematic ID checks there for European citizens as well as foreigners.
Imams in mosques across Turkey have spoken out against Islamic State group in sermons read during traditional Friday prayers.
The sermon prepared by the government's Religious Affairs Directorate and read in all mosques, said recent IS attacks in Paris, Ankara, Beirut and Baghdad had not just killed innocent people but also "Islam's holy values."
It called the extremists "murderous gangs hiding behind religion" and likened them to invading "Mongols" or "Crusaders."
The sermon was read in some 80,000 mosques in Turkey and 2,000 Turkish mosques abroad.
It came a day after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on Muslim nations to stand united against the extremist groups, including IS, al-Qaida and Boko Haram, that he said were tarnishing Islam.
Laurent Blanc, coach of the Paris Saint-Germain football team, threatened to walk out of his news conference on Friday when asked another question regarding the psychological state of his players.
Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu lost two friends in the attacks, which killed 130 people and wounded 350.
Having earlier interrupted one reporter's question about how certain players who lost friends in the carnage might be affected by last Friday's attacks, Blanc responded angrily when the topic was raised again.
Blanc barked "we're not going to talk about this during the whole press conference, because I guarantee you, if you ask me one more question about the context, I'll leave."
Prime Minister Manuel Valls says one more person has died as the result of last week's attacks in Paris, raising the total to 130.
Valls made the announcement Friday in a speech to the Senate, which is expected to approve a three-month extension to France's state of emergency.
Hundreds also were wounded by the attackers, many severely.
Valls sais: "To those who ask, 'what can I do?' I say: to resist is to keep on living, to go out,"
The count does not include any of the attackers who died.
Celine Dion will honor the victims of the attacks in Paris at Sunday's American Music Awards in Los Angeles.
ABC and dick clark productions say that Dion will perform Edith Piaf's "Hymne à L'Amour" in French. "Hymne à L'Amour" was written by Piaf as a tribute to lover Marcel Cerdan, who died in a plane crash in 1949.
French authorities say police have conducted 793 raids since last week's attacks on a rock concert, Parisian cafes and the national stadium.
The new tally was announced Friday by the Interior Ministry.
Last night alone, police reported performing 182 raids, detaining 17 people, and seizing 76 weapons plus drugs.
After five nights of raids, authorities says police have detained 90 people and seized 174 weapons, including 18 military-style firearms, 84 rifles and 68 handguns.
In addition, 164 people have been placed under house arrest with new powers permitted under France's state of emergency. Police also seized 250,000 euros.
The Senate is expected to vote Friday afternoon to extend the state of emergency for three more months.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve says that EU interior and justice ministers have assigned the EU's executive Commission to draw up a proposal for the Schengen free-travel zone to allow for "the systematic control" of all people entering through the bloc's external borders.
Cazeneuve said such controls would be "a crucial change" since the external borders of the EU are still considered far too porous to prevent foreign fighters from returning home from Syria and Iraq.
A senior Greek security official says there is no record of the alleged mastermind of the Paris attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, passing through the country, which is at the forefront of Europe's immigration crisis.
The officials said "it is reasonable to think that someone setting off from the Middle East (for Europe) would go through Greece or Italy." However, he says no Greek agency has a record of Abaaoud's presence.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case publicly, said he could not rule out Abaaoud's having entered the country on a fake passport.
—By Costas Kantouris
A European Union official says members have agreed to "considerably strengthen" means for the 28 nations to cooperate to combat violent extremism.
Luxembourg Justice Minister Etienne Schneider, who chaired the emergency meeting, said quick and strengthened action "is not an option but an obligation."
He says EU nations assigned the EU Commission to look at changes in the Schengen border system to make sure loopholes are closed.
Belgium is keeping in custody two of the nine people detained during a spate of raids on Thursday.
One person was linked to stadium suicide bomber Bilal Hadfi in an investigation that was not direcly related to the Paris attacks last Friday. Another suspect, who was detained in relation to the Paris attacks, also had his custody extended by a day.
The seven others, including one whose detention was linked to Paris, were let go, a statement from the proscecutor's office said.
No other details were released.
France's army recruitment spokesman says the number of people wanting to join up has tripled since the Paris attacks.
Col. Eric de Lapresle told Le Monde newspaper that the number of people inquiring through the army website has gone from 500 to 1,500 a day since the Nov. 13 carnage that killed 129 people.
He says it's a "totally new phenomenon."
He says applications had already gone up from about 150 a day after attacks on satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket in Paris in January.
The French army currently has almost 112,000 troops and 8,400 civilian employees.
After last week's attacks, President Francois Hollande froze plans to cut more than 9,000 troops by 2019.
A French security official says the suspected mastermind of the Paris attacks was seen on surveillance camera in the subway around the time of the shootings and suicide bombings in cafes, a rock concert and a stadium.
The official, not authorized to be publicly named discussing an ongoing investigation, says Abdelhamid Abaaoud was seen at the Croix de Chavaux metro station in the suburb of Montreuil at 10:14 p.m. on Nov. 13.
Teams of attackers started the violence at 9:20 p.m. at the national stadium north of Paris, then started firing on Paris cafes a few minutes later.
The metro station where Abaaoud was seen is not far from where police later found a Seat car believed used by the attackers.
Prosecutors say Abaaoud was killed in a police raid north of Paris on Wednesday.
—By Angela Charlton
French artists and cultural figures are calling for people to mark a week since the start of the Paris attacks with an outpouring of "noise and light."
The call is going out on social media under the Twitter hashtag 21h20 — or 9:20 p.m., the time the attacks began on Nov. 13.
A letter in the Huffington Post is signed by dozens of artists, writers, musicians and other cultural figures, including singer Charles Aznavour, journalist Anne Sinclair and former French Culture Minister Jack Lang.
It says the killers' attack on "culture and freedom" should unite people of all races, faiths and backgrounds.
The letter calls for people to turn on lights, light candles and play music so that the attackers "will understand that they have lost." The writers hope the gesture will show, "that culture will continue to shine out and to burnish the light of hope and fraternity."
The Paris prosecutor's office says that a third body was found overnight in an apartment raided by police searching for suspects in last week's Paris attacks.
The office said in a statement Friday that the body is that of a woman but her identity is unclear.
Prosecutors earlier identified one of the others killed in Wednesday's raid in Saint-Denis as suspected mastermind Abdelhamid Abaaoud.
Under gray skies and rain, Paris is marking a week since the deadly attacks with silence and reflection.
Most demonstrations have been banned in Paris since the attacks, but Parisians have been spontaneously gathering outside the restaurants, cafes and concert halls hit in the attacks all week to leave flowers, light candles or hold quiet vigils.
A demonstration planned for Friday at France's oldest mosque to show inter-community solidarity after the attacks was canceled for security concerns.
Gunmen and suicide bombers attacked cafes, restaurants and the national soccer stadium on the evening of Nov. 13, killing 129 people and injuring more than 350.
The attacks, claimed by the Islamic State group, were the deadliest violence in Paris since World War II.
Britain's interior minister, Theresa May, is urging the European Union to quickly implement border security measures agreed early this year.
She told reporters on Friday that "there is a clear link between the security of the EU's external border and security within the EU, and that is why it's important that we ensure the measures we have already agreed are implemented."
Speaking at emergency talks between EU interior and justice ministers organized after the Paris attacks, she expressed frustration at the yearslong roadblock in introducing a system to collect airline passenger information.
May said "we need to see immediate progress. The negotiations have taken too long and that must be concluded."
She said Britain would move on its own in "obtaining records from those who are operating to and from the United Kingdom."
French President Francois Hollande will preside over a national ceremony Nov. 27 honoring the at least 129 victims of the deadliest attacks on France in decades.
The president's office announced Friday that the ceremony will be held at the gold-domed Hotel des Invalides, where Napoleon's tomb lies and which is seen as a symbol of France's military and international strength.
More than 350 people were wounded in the Nov. 13 attacks on Parisian cafes, the national stadium and a rock concert. Scores are in critical condition, and medical authorities have warned that the death toll is likely to rise.
France's national police chief says that the whereabouts of a key fugitive in last week's Paris attacks is unclear.
Jean-Marc Falcone, speaking Friday on France-Info radio, said he is unable to say if Salah Abdeslam could be back on French territory.
"We can't say anything about the exact geographic situation of that individual," he said.
European officials earlier acknowledged that French police stopped Abdeslam the morning after Friday's attacks at the Belgian border but then let him go.
His brother Brahim was among seven suicide bombers in the attacks on Parisian cafes, a stadium and a concert hall.
Salah Abdeslam is being sought as a suspected accomplice in the attacks.
European Union interior and justice ministers gathering for an emergency meeting on how best to respond to the threat of violent extremism will hear urging from France and Belgium to tighten gun laws, toughen border security and choke off funds to extremist groups.
But the ministers are not expected to order any new measures that could be immediately introduced to restore calm among countries rattled by the coordinated attacks in Paris, claimed by the Islamic State organization, that killed 129 people.
Documents prepared for the Friday meeting in Brussels and seen by The Associated Press indicate the ministers instead will try to push forward on priorities already identified, but not acted on, by EU leaders following an earlier round of deadly attacks in Paris on a satirical newspaper and a kosher grocery in January.
French Interior Bernard Cazeneuve is exhorting his European Union partners to toughen the bloc's borders and move forward on a long-delayed system for collecting airline passenger information.
Cazeneuve warned them on Friday that "we can't take more time. This is urgent."
His call came at the start of an emergency meeting of EU interior and justice ministers aimed at fine-tuning a European security response to the attacks in Paris a week ago, in which 129 people were killed.
"Terrorists are crossing the borders of the European Union," he said, underlining why the EU must adopt a so-called passenger name record system, which has been held up for years.
He said the system would allow the EU to better track extremists and foreign fighters coming and going from Syria and Iraq.