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Paris terror attacks: Multi-city raids and manhunts as police close the net on suspects

Two people have now been charged with involvement with terrorism following the attacks.

Updated 2.48 pm

Belgium France Paris Attacks Armed police guard a street in Brussels. Source: AP/Press Association Images

BELGIAN POLICE LAUNCHED a major raid in Brussels targeting fugitive Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam, but the operation ended without any arrests.

Police, meanwhile, freed one of his brothers without charge, following his arrest at the weekend in the wake of the attacks in which a third Abdeslam brother took part as a suicide bomber, officials said.

Belgian authorities also say they’ve charged two people with involvement in terrorism following Friday’s attacks.

The pair were charged “with a terrorist act and participation in the activities of a terrorist group”, while five others detained at the weekend were freed without charge, the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

It did not give the names of the people who were charged.

It comes after today’s raid saw dozens of officers in balclavas and carrying sub-machineguns surrounding a house in the run-down immigrant area of Molenbeek in western Brussels. The area is increasingly under scrutiny as a hotbed of European militancy.

“The operation is over and the result is negative. No one was arrested,” spokesman Eric Van Der Sypt told AFP. The mayor of Molenbeek district where the raid took place also confirmed it was over.

Van Der Sypt had earlier confirmed that the raid targeted Salah Abdeslam — a 26-year-old former Brussels tram worker who is the subject of an international arrest warrant by French police — without saying whether he was in the house.

His brother Mohamed Abdeslam was released “without being charged” by Belgian authorities on Monday along with four other suspects who were among seven people arrested in the wake of the carnage in the French capital, Van Der Sypt said.

Raid

Reporters at the scene earlier said a suspect had been taken away by officers following a raid at a house.

Officers called out for the person to leave the building with their hands up in a loudspeaker warning, according to reports.

A bomb disposal team was at the scene, as police surrounded the apartment building. Armed police then entered.

Neighbours said that tear gas was fired by police as the operation continued.

Channel 4 reporter Paraic O’Brien reported that police opened a window on a roof and threw in tear gas before pulling someone out.

A media blackout was later requested by officers, according to reporters present, as the operation was continuing. It is now believed to be over.

Brussels-born Abdeslam (26) was named as a key suspect in the wake of Friday’s terror attacks in Paris.

He was reportedly stopped by officers in the wake of the attacks – but then let go.

wanted1

Mastermind of attacks

French officials earlier identified the Belgian mastermind behind Friday’s terror attacks in Paris, naming him as Abdelhamid Abaaoud.

He has been linked to thwarted attacks on trains and churches.

French police carried out nearly 170 searches and arrested 23 people in raids overnight in the wake of the attacks on Paris, and more than 100 people have been placed under house arrest, the country’s interior minister said.

A total of 31 weapons were seized, Bernard Cazeneuve added. Sources told AFP they included a rocket launcher and a Kalashnikov rifle found near the southeast city of Lyon.

Cazeneuve said 104 people have been placed under house arrest since Friday.

Two attackers identified

Also thismorning prosecutors said they had identified two more attackers involved in the bloody assault on Paris, including one previously charged in a “terrorist” case.

A suicide bomber who blew himself up outside the Stade de France stadium is believed to be Syrian Ahmad Al Mohammad from Idlib.

Belgium France Paris Attacks Source: AP/Press Association Images

A statement from the prosecutor’s office said the Syrian passport found in that name near the body “remains to be verified” but that fingerprints matched those taken in Greece in October.

The second was 28-year-old Samy Amimour, from the suburb of Drancy outside Paris.

He was involved in the massacre of 89 people in the Bataclan concert hall.

Amimour “is known to anti-terrorist investigators for being charged on October 19, 2012 for conspiracy to commit terrorism” over a planned attack in Yemen that was foiled.

Searches

Local media reported that police carried out searches in Paris as well as Toulouse, Grenoble and Lyon.

At least three people were arrested in Toulouse, according to the local prosecutor’s office.

In the Alpine city of Grenoble, according to the local newspaper Le Dauphine Libere, at least half a dozen people were arrested and guns and money were seized.

Except for one raid close to France’s border with Belgium, it is not believed all were directly linked to Friday’s deadly attacks, with Le Monde reporting that the searches were carried out under a legal framework set out under the state of emergency.

Prime minister Manuel Valls told RTL radio this morning that terrorism could hit again ‘in days or weeks to come’, and that last week’s attacks were planned in Syria.

Paris attacks Flowers and tributes are left close to La Casa Nostra pizzeria, Paris, one of the venues for the attacks/ Source: PA WIRE

Last night warplanes carried out a massive series of airstrikes targeting the Islamic State group’s de facto capital of Raqa in Syria.

The raid destroyed an IS command post, a recruitment centre, a munitions depot and a “terrorist” training camp in Raqa, the defence ministry said.

The operation was coordinated with US forces by a dozen aircraft which took off from Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, it said.

Britain

Speaking to BBC Radio 4 this morning, British prime minister David Cameron revealed his country’s efforts to stop terror attacks in recent months.

He said British security serviceshave foiled around seven terror attacks since June with fighters returning from Syria posing a growing threat.

“Our security and intelligence services have stopped something like seven attacks in the last six months, albeit attacks planned on a smaller scale” than Friday’s attacks in Paris, he told BBC Radio 4 from Turkey.

We have been aware of these cells operating in Syria that are radicalising people in our own countries, potentially sending people back to carry out attacks.

France and other European countries observed a minute’s silence at midday (11am Irish time).

In the United States, the Stars and Stripes will fly at half-mast at the White House until sunset on Thursday.

Despite a state of emergency in France, museums, theatres and other cultural centres were set to reopen following 1pm, after being shut in the wake of the attacks.

Surrounded by police

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland this morning, an Irish priest spoke of the massive security to get into one French school this morning.

Father Aidan Troy, who was a priest in the early 1990s in Belfast but is now a parish priest in France, said he arrived to give a talk to pupils earlier and found the school surrounded by police.

There were “huge security” to even get into the school grounds, he said.

He described the city was “subdued” and “very different” this morning as Parisians get back to work.

Troy recalled the terror of Friday night, when he found out of the attacks while at dinner with French families.

“I got back as quick as I could to the church to see how everything was unfolding.

“I was here for the Charlie Hebdo. While that was awful, it was focused. This was a football stadium, a restaurant, a concert in a theatre.

You never knew where the next shot was coming from.

Additional reporting by Daragh Brophy, Rónán Duffy, AFP and The Associated Press. Originally published 7.40am.

Read: France has launched “massive” airstrikes on ISIS in Syria >

More: Police release photo of on-the-run suspect in Paris attacks >

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Nicky Ryan

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