FRENCH authorities are hunting a second fugitive directly involved in the Paris terrorist attacks and the government has made an unprecedented demand that its EU allies support its military action against Islamic State.
The disclosure of a second possible fugitive came on the same day that France launched new air strikes on the militants’ stronghold in Syria, Vladimir Putin ordered a Russian military cruiser to co-operate with the French on fighting IS in Syria, and US Secretary of State John Kerry hinted at a possible upcoming ceasefire in Syria.
French and Belgian police were already looking for key suspect Salah Abdeslam, 26, whose suicide-bomber brother Brahim died in the attacks on Friday night that killed at least 129 people and left more than 350 wounded in Paris.
Islamic state militants have claimed responsibility for the carnage.
Seven attackers died that night – three around the national stadium, three inside the Bataclan concert hall, and one at a restaurant nearby. A team of gunmen also opened fire at nightspots in one of Paris’ trendiest neighbourhoods.
However, three French officials said yesterday that an analysis of the attacks showed one person directly involved in them was unaccounted for. The second fugitive had not been identified last night.
Every country said ‘I am going to assist, I am going to help’.”JENA-YVES LE DRIAN
The French government had earlier invoked a never-before-used article of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty obliging members of the 28-nation bloc to give “aid and assistance by all the means in their power” to a member country that is “the victim of armed aggression on its territory”. French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said all 27 of France’s EU partners responded positively.
He said: “Every country said, ‘I am going to assist, I am going to help’.”
Arriving for talks in Brussels, Greek defence minister Panagiotis Kammenos said the Paris attacks were a game-changer for the EU.
“This is September 11 for Europe,” he said.
Paris police said 16 people had been arrested in relation to the deadly attacks, and police have carried out 104 raids since a state of emergency was declared on Saturday.
A French military spokesman said the latest air strikes in Islamic State’s de-facto capital in the Syrian city of Raqqa destroyed a command post and training camp.
Nato allies were sharing intelligence and working closely with France, Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg said.
Mohamed Abdeslam, another brother of fugitive Salah Abdeslam, urged his brother to turn himself in.
Mohamed Abdeslam, who was arrested and questioned following the attack before being released on Monday, said his brother was devout but showed no signs of being a radical Islamist. He said Salah Abdeslam prayed and attended a mosque occasionally, but also dressed in jeans and pullovers.
In Belgium, two men admitted driving to France to pick up Salah Abdeslam early on Saturday.
Mohammed Amri, 27, denies any involvement in the Paris attacks and says he went to Paris to collect his friend, according to his defence lawyer Xavier Carrette.
Hamza Attou, 21, said he went along to keep Mr Amri company, his lawyer Carine Couquelet said. Both are being held on charges of terrorist murder and conspiracy.
Belgian media reported that Mr Amri and Mr Attou were being investigated as potential suppliers of the suicide bombs used in the attacks, since ammonium nitrate, a fertiliser that can be used to make explosives, was discovered in a search of their residence. In other developments, German police said five people with possible links to the Paris attacks were arrested yesterday near the western city of Aachen, but later released.
Another Belgian car with a shattered front passenger window was found in northern Paris – the third vehicle police identified as having possible links to the attacks.
Belgium was also deploying 300 extra soldiers to help provide security in major cities.
Mr Kerry flew to France as a gesture of solidarity and met Mr Hollande and foreign minister Laurent Fabius yesterday. He said a ceasefire between Syria’s government and the opposition – which would allow nations supporting Syria’s various factions to focus more on IS – could be just weeks away.
The Eiffel Tower was shut down again yesterday, after opening for just a day, and heavily armed troops patrolled the courtyard of the Louvre Museum.