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Abdelhamid Abaaoud, ‘mastermind’ behind Paris attacks killed in flat raid

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Paris: A raid carried out before dawn on a Paris flat on Wednesday reportedly killed the mastermind behind the deadly Paris attacks that left almost 130 dead.

An apartment building in the suburban Saint-Denis, which houses many immigrants, was stormed by around a 100 police officers at 4:30 AM, said officials. Seven explosions and gunfire was heard during the seven hour siege, the focus of which is believed to have been Abaaoud himself.

Two senior intelligence officials confirmed the death of Abaaoud in the raid.

However, due to the “state of the bodies”, the identities havn’t been confirmed yet, said Francois Molins, the French prosecutor overseeing the investigations.

“I am not able to give you precise information about the identitiy of the people who have died,” he said at a press conference.

Reportedly, the detonation of an explosive belt by a female suicide bomber killed two. The dead are suspected to have been Abaaoud and Salah Abdeslam.

Five policemen were injured in the raid, following which, four men and one woman were arrested.

Security services from France and Belgium had stated previously that Abaaoud was in Syria or some territory controlled by ISIS. So, the reported location of the ISIS militant’s death will not bode well for them.

Born in Belgium, Abaaoud grew up in Molenbeek, a suburb in Brussels which has recently become a focus area for investigators.

Abaaoud, who is thought to be 27, became involved in petty crime quite early even though he studied at a Catholic school. His family was shocked when he went to Syria in January 2014, taking along his 13-year-old brother Younes.

“They did not even go to the mosque,” Yasmina, older sister to the brothers, earlier this year told the New York Times. Like so many more who have gone to the ‘Islamic State’, Abaaoud’s actions also seem to have been motivated not by religion, but by a thirst for violence, power and unaccountability.

Abaaoud returned to Europe via Athens, after he was further radicalized and trained in Syria. A few months before the attack, he claimed in an interview to ISIS-propaganda magazine Dabiq, that he had been detained by a Belgium police officer. However, he was let go as the officer failed to recognize him. It was because of this interview that officials believed he was in Syria.

A previous foiled attack in a high speed Paris-bound train, and others in Europe have been linked to Abaaoud.

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White House: Judge’s Decision Halting Travel Ban ‘Dangerously Flawed’

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Travel Ban
A sign for International Arrivals is shown at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle.VOA

The White House is reacting furiously to a federal judge blocking President Donald Trump’s latest executive Travel Ban order that would have banned entry to travelers from several countries beginning Wednesday.

“Today’s dangerously flawed district court order undercuts the president’s efforts to keep the American people safe and enforce minimum security standards for entry into the United States,” said a White House statement issued Tuesday shortly after Judge Derrick Watson ruled against restrictions on travelers from six countries the Trump administration said could not provide enough information to meet U.S. security standards.

The travel ban order would have barred to various degrees travelers from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.

Watson’s temporary restraining order does not interfere with restrictions on North Korea and Venezuela.

Justice Department defends White House

The Justice Department “will vigorously defend the president’s lawful action,” the White House said, contending its proclamation restricting travel was issued after an extensive worldwide security review.

The Justice Department called the ruling incorrect and said it will appeal the decision “in an expeditious manner.”

Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke said: “While we will comply with any lawful judicial order, we look forward to prevailing in this matter upon appeal.”

Acting Director of Homeland Security Elaine Duke
Acting Director of Homeland Security Elaine Duke testifies before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on Capitol Hill in Washington. VOA

No change for North Korea, Venezuela

The new travel order “suffers from precisely the same maladies as its predecessor: it lacks sufficient findings that the entry of more than 150 million nationals from six specified countries would be ‘detrimental to the United States,'” Judge Watson wrote in his opinion.

The White House argues that its restrictions “are vital to ensuring that foreign nations comply with the minimum security standards required for the integrity of our immigration system and the security of our nation.”

Officials in the White House are expressing confidence that further judicial review will uphold the president’s action.

Hawaii involved for third time

Consular officials have been told to resume “regular processing of visas” for people from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, according to a State Department official.

The suit on which Judge Watson ruled on Tuesday was filed by the state of Hawaii, the Muslim Association of Hawaii and various individuals.

“This is the third time Hawaii has gone to court to stop President Trump from issuing a travel ban that discriminates against people based on their nation of origin or religion,” said Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin. “Today is another victory for the rule of law.”(VOA)