[VIDEO] No Arrests in Siege of Belgian Extremist Hub as Suspected ‘Mastermind’ of Paris Attacks Identified 

TOPSHOTS Police officers stand guard as an operation takes place in the Molenbeek district of Brussels on November 16, 2015. Belgian police launched a major new operation in the Brussels district of Molenbeek, where several suspects in the Paris attacks had previously lived, AFP journalists said. Armed police stood in front of a police van blocking a street in the run-down area of the capital while Belgian media said officers had surrounded a house. Belgian prosecutors had no immediate comment. AFP PHOTO / JOHN THYSJOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images

Belgian believed to be behind Paris attacks

DEVELOPING — Explosions rang out Monday during a massive police operation in the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek as investigators searched for a suspect in the Paris massacre, but they said they failed to make any arrests.

Police were seeking the suspected attacker Salah Abdeslam, 26, and any possible associates. Dozens of masked and heavily armed security officials had sealed off the area and neighbors were told to stay out of harm’s way. Molenbeek mayor Francoise Schepmans said the operation ended after more than three hours.

One of the suspect’s brothers, Brahim Abdeslam, killed himself in Friday’s string of attacks. Another brother, Mohammad, was released after being detained over the weekend, according to his attorney. She told the RTL network her client “hadn’t made the same life choices.”

In all, five of the seven people who were detained over the weekend because of possible links to the massacre have been released, according to the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office. Two others have been charged with being part of a terror group and links to a terror attack, the office said in a statement.

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The U.S. and Russia were among the nations rushing to France’s aid. French president Francois Hollande announced Monday that he would soon speak with Presidents Barack Obama and mastermind-sqVladimir Putin to discuss pooling their efforts to destroy ISIS. He also urged his parliament to extend France’s state of emergency for three months.

Investigators identified a Belgian jihadist believed to be fighting alongside ISIS in Syria as the suspected mastermind behind Friday’s attacks that killed at least 129 people.

A French official told The Associated Press that Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a 27-year-old from Molenbeek, was also believed to have ties to the thwarted attack on a Paris-bound high-speed train this past August, as well as a failed plot to attack a Paris-area church. He is reportedly the child of Moroccan immigrants.

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The Daily Telegraph reported that Abaaoud was the head of a terror cell based in Verviers, Belgium that was broken up by police this past January. However, he appears to have escaped the clutches of the authorities and made his way to Syria.

Salah Abdeslam had been stopped at the French border with Belgium early Saturday, hours after the attacks, The Associated Press reported. Read the rest of this entry »


The Invisible Man

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The city of light became a beacon of leadership Sunday when more than 40 heads of state came together to denounce terrorism, with one glaring exception: the lack of a high-ranking U.S. official.

French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron and dozens of other world leaders — including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas — all took part in the powerful denunciation of last week’s terror attacks that left 17 innocents dead.

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But the nation that stands as the symbolic face of the war on terror was nowhere in sight. Read the rest of this entry »


‘Today, Paris is Capital of the World’: France Displays Defiance With Huge Rally

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Historic: World Leaders Gather With Crowd of Millions to Show Solidarity After Terror Attacks

PARIS— Stacy Meichtry reports: World leaders marched arm-in-arm with a massive crowd Sunday in defiance of terrorist attacks that ripped through the French capital in the past week.

A man dressed as the Statue of Liberty holds up the French national flag at the Place de la République. JOEL SAGET/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

A man dressed as the Statue of Liberty holds up the French national flag at the Place de la République. JOEL SAGET/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Hundreds of thousands of people from across France and elsewhere descended on Paris for a rally that drew a host of strange bedfellows from the world stage.

The families and friends of the 17 people killed in the spree of violence walked solemnly at the head of the march. In their wake came a spectrum of leaders, ranging from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron .

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The rally was one of the city’s biggest gatherings in decades, and French officials adopted “exceptional” measures to manage the crowd and guarantee the security of foreign leaders. Large swaths of the city were sealed off from traffic and subway lines were shut down.

For a city that had become a backdrop of gunfire and bloodshed in recent days, the rally marked Paris’s return as a stage for symbolic gestures of peace. Ms. Merkel locked arms with Mr. Abbas, and Mr. Netanyahu shook hands with President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali, which doesn’t have diplomatic relations with Israel.

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emonstrators gather in Place de la République before the start of a march on Sunday in Paris. Hundreds of thousands of people and dozens of world leaders are attending the event in memory of 17 people who were killed in a spree of terror attacks in the French capital. CHRISTOPHER FURLONG/GETTY IMAGES

 Thousands Gather in Paris

World leaders and dignitaries were due to march with a massive crowd in Paris on Sunday in memory of 17 people who were killed in a spree of terrorist attacks in France this past week. Photo: AP

“Today, Paris is the capital of the world. The whole country will stand up.”

— French President François Hollande

France and the rest of Europe have been on high alert since Wednesday, when brothers Chérif and Saïd Kouachi allegedly went on a deadly rampage, stalking through the newsroom of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo with AK-47s. The violence continued when a third gunman, Amedy Coulibaly, allegedly killed a police woman on Thursday and four hostages at a kosher grocery store on Friday.

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Signs with the words “Je Suis Charlie” (I am Charlie), adorn the base of the statue of Marianne at the Place de la République before the start of the march. JOEL SAGET/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

The Kouachi brothers and Mr. Coulibaly were killed by police in separate and simultaneous raids that brought the crisis to a dramatic climax.

The violence traumatized France, puncturing public confidence in the country’s formidable security forces and sowing tensions in a land that is home to one of Europe’s biggest Muslim populations.

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French doctor Patrice Pelloux, right, takes part in the march with members of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine. THOMAS SAMSON/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

On the sidelines of Sunday’s rally, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve convened a meeting of senior security officials from both sides of the Atlantic, including U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder , to address terrorist threats in the wake of the attacks.

Mr. Cazeneuve said the group of officials agreed to work together to combat threats from foreign fighters returning from Syria and Iraq and to tighten border controls.

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A black X is put across the mouth on part of the base of the statue of Marianne at the Place de la République before the start of the march. The poster reads in French: “We are all defiantly Charlie,” referring to Charlie Hebdo, the satirical magazine whose Paris offices were attacked by brothers Chérif and Saïd Kouachi. JOEL SAGET/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

French police faced off with gunmen on two fronts. How did the alleged terrorists end up in these final confrontations? WSJ’s Jason Bellini has #TheShortAnswer.

The government mobilized thousands of police and paramilitary forces to oversee the rally. Special units, officials said, were dedicated to protecting dignitaries and leaders.

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Mr. Hollande welcomes Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the Élysée Palace. THIBAULT CAMUS/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Efforts to control the crowd, however, were at times overwhelmed by the sheer size of the gathering.

Crowds began flocking to the city center in the early hours of Sunday amid bright sunshine and crisp blue skies. Several dozen antique cars and tractors, in Paris for an annual procession, this year decked themselves out with “Je suis Charlie,” or “I am Charlie,” stickers in solidarity with the magazine, and drove near the Arc de Triomphe as passersby cheered and clapped.

Notably not present: Alleged world leader U.S. President Barack Obama

Notably not present: Alleged world leader U.S. President Barack Obama

The sea of demonstrators pooling in Place de la Republique—the march’s starting point—quickly overflowed, sending human rivers into Paris’s manicured avenues. Crowds also breached the march’s official routes—toward Place de la Nation, 2 miles away—clogging the city’s cobblestoned byways with foot traffic.

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Mr. Hollande embraces German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, as she arrives at the Élysée Palace. Mr. Hollande will lead the march and will be joined by world leaders in a sign of unity. Thibault Camus/Associated Press

Meanwhile, world leaders were ferried to the head of the rally in charted buses from the Élysée Palace, where Mr. Hollande had individually welcomed them in the morning. As the leaders arrived at the march, plain-clothed officers fanned out and police marksmen took rooftop positions. Read the rest of this entry »