by Allanah Leahy – EM TV Online
French authorities have identified 27-year-old Abdelhamid Abaaoud as the mastermind behind the Paris attacks that killed 129 people.
Over 150 night raids were carried out across the country, ending in 23 arrests, while France stepped up its airstrikes, executing its’ biggest one to date.
Among the suspects are the Abdeslam brothers, one of whom blew himself up during the attacks, carried out at six locations, including a major stadium, restaurants, and a sold-out concert.
The attacks involved at least eight gunmen, two of whom self-detonated themselves outside the stadium. Those exiting the stadium in fear and confusion sang their national anthem for courage.
A key suspect, Salah Abdeslam from neighboring Belgium, is now Europe’s most-wanted man. But according to his neighbours, he did not show any signs of extremism.
“He was really well-dressed, wearing designer clothes, no beard you know. A really smart guy, you know, gone to school and really intelligent, you know, so I am really shocked that he is implicated in something like that.
“He had friends, you know, he used to go out, and you know, really normal, nothing abnormal. Like I never saw him in the mosque also, so really shocked,” said Sheraz Sheik, an unsuspecting neighbour of Abdeslam.
A brother of two men involved in the attacks also said on Monday that he and his family would never have imagined their involvement.
At least three of the attackers have been identified as French nationals who recently spent time in Syria. Some suspects had been on terrorist watch-lists.
Meanwhile, 27-year-old Belgium-based Abdelhamid Abaaoud was featured in ISIS’s online magazine, boasting about freely travelling Europe, organizing attacks and weapons. Belgium media reported his involvement in several thwarted attacks in Belgium last January.
French leaders have called the attack an act of war, although not a civilised one.
“We are not fighting a war against civilisations because these assassins do not represent one. Starting from now on, France will step up its operations in Syria,” said French President, Francois Hollande.
France launched into action on Sunday, coordinating with the United States and other allied forces against ISIS, bombing targets in ISIS’s stronghold of Raqqa, as well as an arms depot and training camp.
“We are at war against jihadist terrorists which threaten the whole world, not only France. France is a country that likes life, culture, sport and celebration. France makes no distinction between colour, origin, path and religion. In France, the assassins wanted to kill the young in all its diversity,” said Hollande.
Meanwhile, ISIS released a video on Monday, warning that countries involved in airstrikes against Syria would suffer the same fate as France, while threatening to attack Washington.