Eiffel Tower to get anti-terrorist glass barrier round base

Eiffel tower at sunset in Paris, France

PARIS (Reuters) – The Eiffel Tower, one of the world’s most famous landmarks, will get a glass wall built round its base under a plan to provide extra protection against terrorist attacks, a source in the Paris mayor’s office said on Thursday.

The 324-metre-high structure, which gets about seven million visitors a year, already has protective metal fencing around its base, erected temporarily for the Euro football championship of 2016.

France has been hit by Islamist militant attacks including bombings and shootings in Paris in November 2015 in which 130 people were killed.

Glass panels two-and-a-half meters high would be erected around the base of the tower as an anti-terrorist measure if the plans are approved, the source said. The project would go before a sites commission and then the environment ministry.

“We have three aims: improve the look, make access easier and strengthen the protection of visitors and staff,” Jean-Francois Martins, a city official, said in a statement.

The cost of the project will be around 20 million euros ($21.36 million), le Parisien newspaper said.

(Reporting by Chine Labbe; Writing By Richard Balmforth)

U.S. strike kills Islamic State militants linked to Paris attacks

A man pays his respects during a gathering at the Place de la Republique in Paris, France, November 13, 2016, after ceremonies held for the victims of last year's Paris attacks which targeted the Bataclan concert hall as well as a series of bars and killed 130 people.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. drone strike in Syria last week killed two Islamic State leaders linked to the Nov. 13, 2015 attacks in Paris that killed 130 people as well as a third militant convicted in absentia in Belgium for a disrupted plot, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.

The U.S. military said the strike took place on Dec. 4 in Raqqa, the Islamic State’s defacto capital in Syria.

“They were working together to plot and facilitate attacks on Western targets at the time of the strike,” Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis told reporters.

The Pentagon named two of the militants as Salah Gourmat and Sammy Djedou and said both men were involved with facilitating the 2015 machinegun and suicide bomb attacks on the Bataclan music hall, Paris bars and restaurants, and the Stade de France soccer stadium.

The third man killed, Walid Hamman, was a suicide attack planner and French national who was convicted in absentia in Belgium for a plot disrupted in 2015, Davis told reporters.

The three men were killed when a drone aircraft fired on them as they were driving in a car together, Davis said.

Islamic State, which has controlled parts of Iraq and Syria in recent years, has lost territory this year to local forces in those countries supported by a U.S.-led coalition of air strikes and advisers. Islamic State sympathizers around the world have carried out other shootings and bombings of civilians.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Will Dunham)

France says it has foiled another attack, arresting seven

A French soldier stands guard near Strasbourg's cathedral in Strasbourg, France,

PARIS (Reuters) – France said on Monday it had foiled a terrorist plot and arrested seven people, a year after a state of emergency was imposed to counter a wave of Islamist attacks.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the seven people of French, Moroccan and Afghan origin, aged 29 to 37, were detained on Sunday. One of the detentions followed a tip-off from a foreign government, he said.

Two were arrested in the Mediterranean port city of Marseille and four in Strasbourg in the northeast. Cazeneuve did not say where the seventh was arrested.

“Yesterday, a terrorist act on our soil that was being prepared for a long time was foiled thanks to the work of the DGSI,” Cazeneuve said in a statement, referring to the internal intelligence service.

“The scale of the terrorist threat is enormous and it is not possible to ensure zero risk despite everything we are doing.”

French soldiers patrol past wooden barracks shops during the installation of the traditional Christkindelsmaerik (Christ Child market) near Strasbourg's cathedral in Strasbourg, France,

French soldiers patrol past wooden barracks shops during the installation of the traditional Christkindelsmaerik (Christ Child market) near Strasbourg’s cathedral in Strasbourg, France, November 21, 2016. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

The minister gave no information on the target of the planned attack. The mayor of Strasbourg said it appeared the plot had not concerned his city but rather “the Paris region”.

A source close to the inquiry told Reuters that some of those detained had spent time in the Syria-Iraq region.

Security is a major theme in campaigning ahead of France’s presidential election next spring.

More than 230 people have been killed in attacks on French soil since January, 2015, when Islamist militants killed 17 people in Paris in an attack on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

Gunmen and suicide bombers killed 130 people in coordinated strikes in Paris last November 13.

Islamic State, whose strongholds in Syria and Iraq are being bombed by warplanes from an international coalition including France, has urged followers to continue attacking the country.

Le Parisien newspaper cited a source as having told it the suspects arrested were awaiting a consignment of weapons.

(Reporting by Brian Love, Matthias Blamont and Chine Labbe; Editing by Richard Lough and Andrew Roche)

Bombers planned to attack France again

Damage is seen inside the departure terminal following the March 22, 2016 bombing at Zaventem Airport, in these photos made available to Reuters by the Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad

By Robert-Jan Bartunek

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The militant cell behind bombings in Brussels had been plotting to hit France again after carrying out the Paris attacks in November, but was forced to strike closer to home as police closed in, Belgian prosecutors said on Sunday.

Investigations into the Islamic State attacks in Paris, which killed 130 people, showed that many of the perpetrators lived in Belgium, including surviving suspects who managed to evade police for more than four months.

Prime suspect Salah Abdeslam was arrested on March 18 in the Belgian capital. Four days later, suicide bombers killed 32 people in Brussels airport and a rush-hour metro train.

“Numerous elements in the investigation have shown that the terrorist group initially had the intention to strike in France again,” Belgium’s federal prosecutor said in a statement.

“Surprised by the speed of progress in the investigation, they took the decision to strike in Brussels.”

Belgian intelligence and security forces had been criticised abroad for not doing more to dismantle the militant cell, because of its links to the Paris attacks.

As of Friday, all publicly identified suspects were either in detention or dead, but Belgium remains on its second highest threat level, and Prime Minister Charles Michel said his government would remain alert.

His comments were echoed by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who said France would not be lowering its guard.

“This is a further sign of the very serious threat facing Europe as a whole and of course France in particular,” Valls told a news conference in Algiers.

Abdeslam, born and raised in Belgium to Moroccan-born parents, told a magistrate he had planned to blow himself up at a sports stadium in Paris in November, but backed out at the last minute. His brother Brahim blew himself up at a Paris cafe.

Another man linked to the Paris attacks, Mohamed Abrini, was arrested in Brussels on Friday and admitted to being the “man in the hat” captured on video walking into Brussels airport alongside two suicide bombers.

Abrini, 31, has been charged with terrorist murders, prosecutors said.

Another main suspect who was seen alongside the suicide bomber in the Brussels metro, identified by prosecutors as Osama K, was also arrested on Friday in the Belgian capital.

Osama K, 28, widely named by media as Swedish national Osama Krayem, was filmed buying the bags used to carry the Brussels bombs.

(additional reporting by Laurence Frost; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

Number of anti-Semitic incidents in Austria rises strongly

Pupils of the Lauder Chabad school

VIENNA (Reuters) – The number of anti-Semitic incidents reported in Austria increased more than 80 percent last year, with reported internet postings denouncing Jews more than doubling, an Austrian group said on Wednesday.

Jews across Europe have warned of a rising tide of anti-Semitism, fueled by anger at Israeli policy in the Middle East, while far-right movements have gained popularity because of tensions over immigration and concerns following militant Islamist attacks in Paris and Brussels.

The Austrian Forum Against Anti-Semitism, which began monitoring anti-Semitic incidents in 2003, said 465 incidents were recorded during 2015, over 200 of them being internet postings hostile to Jews.

The total number of internet postings reported to Austria’s constitutional protection authority as offensive remained stable in 2015, but the number of postings liable to be used in criminal proceedings doubled compared to 2014, according to an interior ministry spokesman.

“The whole picture is terrifying,” Oskar Deutsch, president of the Jewish Communities of Austria (IKG), said.

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) urged the European Union and its member states in January to increase efforts to combat widespread anti-Semitic cyber hate, arguing that anti-Semitism in the region did not show any sign of waning.

IKG’s Secretary General Raimund Fastenbauer said it was difficult to clearly tell who committed some anti-Semitic acts because offenders could not be identified and internet postings were usually anonymous.

But there was a clear trend of increasingly hostile behavior against the 15,000 Jews living in Austria from Muslims, the Jewish community representative said.

“There is an increasing concern in our community that – if the proportion of Muslims in Austria continues to rise due to immigration, due to the refugees – this could become problematic for us,” Fastenbauer said.

Austria has mainly served as a conduit into Germany for refugees and migrants from the Middle East and Africa but has absorbed a similar number of asylum seekers relative to its much smaller population of 8.7 million.

(Reporting by Kirsti Knolle; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

Captured Paris attacks suspect ‘worth weight in gold’ to police, lawyer says

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The only suspected participant in Nov. 13 Paris attacks to be captured alive has been cooperating with police investigators and is “worth his weight in gold”, his lawyer said on Monday.

Belgium’s Interior Minister Jan Jambon said the country was on high alert for a possible revenge attack following the capture of 26-year-old Salah Abdeslam in a flat in Brussels on Friday.

“We know that stopping one cell can …push others into action. We are aware of it in this case,” he told public radio.

French investigator Francois Molins told a news conference in Paris on Saturday Abdeslam had admitted to investigators he had wanted to blow himself up along with others at the Stade de France on the night of the attack claimed by Islamic State; but he later backed out.

Abdeslam’s lawyer Sven Mary said he would sue Molins for making the comment public, calling it a violation of judicial confidentiality.

Mary said Abdeslam was now fully cooperating with investigators.

“I think that Salah Abdeslam is of prime importance for this investigation. I would even say he is worth his weight in gold. He is collaborating. He is communicating. He is not maintaining his right to remain silent,” Mary told Belgian public broadcaster RTBF.


As the only suspected participant or planner of the Paris attack in police custody, Abdeslam would be seen by investigators as a possible major source of information on others involved, in support networks, finance and links with Islamic State in Syria. There would also be urgent interest in finding out what further attacks might be planned.

Belgian prosecutors said in a statement they were looking for Najim Laachraoui, 25, using the false name of Soufiane Kayal. His DNA had been found in houses in Belgium used by the Paris attackers.

Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said on Sunday that Abdeslam may have been plotting more operations drawing on a weapons discovered in the Forest district of Brussels and a network of associates.

Jambon said he could not confirm that, but it was a possibility.

“After 18 months of dealing with this terrorist issue, I have learned that when the terrorists and weapons are in the same place, and that’s what we saw in Forest, we are close to an attack. I’m not saying it is evidence. But yes, there are indications,” he said.

Reynders said Belgium and France had so far found around 30 people involved in the gun and bomb attacks on bars, a sports stadium and a concert hall in the French capital.

(Reporting By Jan Strupczewski and Barbara Lewis; editing by Ralph Boulton)

France carries out biggest ever attack drill ahead of soccer championships

PARIS (Reuters) – France has staged a mock chemical weapons attack on a soccer “fan zone” as it prepares for the Euro 2016 soccer championships in June, less than a year after Islamist militants killed 130 people in attacks in and around the French capital.

More than a thousand police and firemen took part in the attack response drill in the southern city of Nîmes, the largest ever carried out in France.

The exercise was designed to simulate a chemical attack in a “fan zone”, a closed perimeter area where soccer fans will be able to monitor the competition on giant outdoor screens when not attending matches in one of the 10 stadiums.

A Reuters witness saw dozens of police and military officers taking part in the drill, some of them equipped with gas masks.

French anti-terrorism police arrested a group with Islamist militant ties on Wednesday, suspecting one of them may have been planning another attack in the capital.

“In Nîmes, it was about a chemical or bacteriological threat,” Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve was quoted as saying in daily newspaper 20 minutes.

“We don’t believe there is a genuine risk of this type of attack but we must envisage every hypothesis.”

It will be the third time that France hosted the UEFA European Championship after having been chosen for the 1960 inaugural tournament and the finals in 1984.

(Reporting by Matthias Blamont; Editing by Toby Chopra)

Fugitive from Paris attacks arrested in Brussels shootout

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The most-wanted fugitive from November’s Paris attacks was arrested after a shootout with police in Brussels on Friday, Belgium’s prime minister said.

Charles Michel described the capture of 26-year-old French suspect Salah Abdeslam and two others as “a very important result in the battle for democracy”. French President Francois Hollande said he was confident they had links to Syria and to Islamic State which claimed the attacks that killed 130 people.

“The threat level is very high,” said Hollande, who was in Brussels for an EU summit. He added that it was now clear many more people had been involved in the Paris attacks on a sports stadium, bars and cafes and concert hall than had been realized.

Michel said Abdeslam was wounded — local media said he was shot in the leg — in the operation launched as EU leaders met on the other side of the city to discuss Europe’s migration crisis. U.S. President Barack Obama sent his congratulations.

Television footage showed armed security forces dragging a man with a sack on his head out of a building and into a car.

“We got him,” Belgian government minister Theo Francken said on Twitter.

Hollande said France wanted to extradite Abdeslam, who was born and raised in Brussels to a Moroccan immigrant family, and hoped he would yield more clarity about an operation mounted by Syria-based Islamic State in which all the known attackers died.

Several bursts of gunfire rang out earlier in the capital’s Molenbeek area – Abdeslam’s home neighborhood and the scene of past investigations into the Paris attacks – and police officers surrounded an apartment block there from around 4 p.m. (1500 GMT).

Two explosions were heard after the arrest, though it was unclear whether they were part of a new operation or the clear-up. Some four hours later, the main police presence had stood down but crime scene investigators were still at work.

There had long been speculation about whether Abdeslam had stayed in Belgium or managed to flee to Syria. Security services will be seeking information from Abdeslam on Islamic State plans and structures, his contacts in Europe and Syria and support networks and finance.

Hollande said he was sure Abdeslam, whose elder brother blew himself up at a Parisian cafe on Nov. 13, had also been in the city that night and had helped plan the attack.


Belgian police had found fingerprints belonging to Abdeslam at the scene of an apartment raided on Tuesday, prosecutors said.

The Belgian federal prosecutor’s office also said an Algerian killed during that earlier operation was probably one of the people French and Belgian investigators were seeking in relation to the attacks in Paris.

Public broadcaster RTBF said it had information that Abdeslam, whose elder brother blew himself up in Paris, was “more than likely” one of two men who police had said evaded capture at the scene before a sniper shot dead 35-year-old Belkaid as he aimed a Kalashnikov.

It said Belkaid was the man known to police as Samir Bouzid who has been sought since December when police issued CCTV pictures of him wiring cash from Brussels two days after the Paris attacks to a woman who was then killed in a shootout with police in the Paris suburb of St. Denis.

She was a cousin of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian who had fought in Syria and is suspected of being a prime organizer of the attacks in which 130 people were killed. Both died in the apartment in St. Denis on Nov. 18.

France’s BFM television said the fingerprints were found on a glass in the apartment, where four police officers, including a Frenchwoman, were wounded when a hail of automatic gunfire hit them through the front door as they arrived for what officials said they had expected to be a relatively routine search.

Abdeslam’s elder brother was among the suicide bombers who killed themselves in Paris. The younger Abdeslam was driven back to Brussels from Paris hours later.

Belgian authorities are holding 10 people suspected of involvement with him, but there had been no report of the fugitive himself being sighted.

Investigators believe much of the planning and preparation for the November bombing and shooting rampage in Paris was conducted in Brussels by young French and Belgian nationals, some of whom fought in Syria for Islamic State.

The attack strained relations between Brussels and Paris, with French officials suggesting Belgium was lax in monitoring the activities of hundreds of militants returned from Syria.

Hollande and Michel took pains to exchange mutual compliments to their security services and cross-border cooperation.

Brussels, headquarters of the European Union as well as Western military alliance NATO, was entirely locked down for days after the Paris attacks for fear of a major incident there. Brussels has maintained a high state of security alert since then, with military patrols a regular sight.

(Additional reporting by Francesco Guarascio and Jan Strupczewski; Writing by Alastair Macdonald and Andrew Heavens; Editing by Ralph Boulton and Alastair Macdonald)

Germany searches home of two Syrians suspected of planning attack

BERLIN (Reuters) – German police have raided the home of two Syrian brothers with links to the militant group Islamic State (IS), suspecting that they were preparing an attack, prosecutors in Frankfurt said on Thursday.

Police confiscated an air pistol, electronic storage devices, mobile phones and $16,000 in cash but did not arrest the brothers, 21 and 30 years old.

Prosecutors did not give more information on the exact nature of the suspected crime, which they called a “serious act of violent subversion”.

The older brother had entered Germany in February 2015 with a forged passport obtained by IS, a crime for which he was sentenced and fined last year.

Prosecutors said that in social media postings he had promoted the militant group, threatened German authorities and justified last November’s attacks in Paris.

The younger brother published a picture of himself on social media that showed him sitting in a “luxury car belonging to his brother” sporting a pistol, the prosecutor’s office said.

Germany has been on alert since militants with links to Islamic State killed 130 people in Paris in November.

The anxieties have been fueled by the arrival of over 1 million migrants in Germany last year, many of them fleeing war and conflict in the Middle East and beyond.

Last month, the government said that the whereabouts of more than 140,000 people registered in 2015 were unknown.

(Reporting by Tina Bellon)

Algerian named as dead Brussels gunman, manhunt goes on

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Belgian prosecutors on Wednesday named a 35-year-old Algerian as the man shot dead by police on Tuesday during a police raid on a Brussels apartment in the hunt for clues to bloody attacks in Paris last November.

Police found an Islamic State flag in the apartment used by Mohamed Belkaid and two others suspected of being with him after officers were met with a barrage of automatic weapons fire as they arrived to search the flat.

Belkaid, who was living in Belgium illegally and had a police record for theft but was not on security watchlists, was killed by a special forces sniper after a three-hour siege. A manhunt for the two other suspects continued on Wednesday.

The government held its alert status steady at Level Three, one step below the maximum.

The prosecutors said a radical Islamic text was found next to Belkaid’s body and a cache of ammunition was also discovered. It was not clear if he had any links to the Paris suspects.

Two people detained overnight on suspicion of links to the shootout in the suburb of Forest were released without charge.

Investigators believe much of the planning and preparation for the Nov. 13 shooting and bombing rampage in Paris that killed 130 people was conducted in Brussels by young French and Belgian nationals, some of whom fought as militants in Syria.

Ten people are being held in Belgian custody on a variety of charges relating to the four-month investigation, though prime suspects, including Salah Abdeslam, a brother of one of the Paris suicide bombers, are suspected of having fled the country.


On Tuesday, six Belgian and French police officers arrived to search the flat and came under automatic fire through a door from at least two people barricaded inside. Four officers, one of them a Frenchwoman, were wounded, none very seriously.

Ministers said the police visit to the apartment had not been expected to provide much new evidence and that the presence of French officers did not imply a major break in the case.

Prime Minister Charles Michel said he was holding the state of alert steady after a meeting of security and intelligence chiefs in Belgium’s national security council .

Brussels, headquarters of the European Union as well as Western military alliance NATO, was entirely locked down for days shortly after the Paris attacks because of fears of a major incident there. The city has maintained a high state of security alert since then, with military patrols a regular occurrence.

Belgium, with a Muslim population of about 5 percent among its 11 million people, has Europe’s highest rate of citizens joining Islamist militants in Syria.

People living in the quiet neighborhood of Forest suffered hours of lockdown on Tuesday and voiced shock at the events.

Schoolboy Maxime, 11, was at home sick when he heard gunfire and helicopters and saw masked commandoes on a rooftop. “They had a huge weapon,” he said, adding he was “very, very scared”.

(Additional reporting by Miranda Alexander-Webber; Editing by Alastair Macdonald and Tom Heneghan)