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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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Syria Uses Familiar Tactic in Rebel Idlib: Bombing Civilians

The United Nations is demanding an immediate end to indiscriminate attacks against civilians

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Syria, Rebel, Idlib
FILE - Destruction is seen around the Udai hospital following airstrikes on the town of Saraqeb in Syria's northwestern province of Idlib, Jan. 29, 2018. VOA

The United Nations is demanding an immediate end to indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure in northwest Syria, warning the warring parties their actions might amount to war crimes.

U.N. agencies say an intense military escalation by Russian-backed Syrian forces and armed rebels in northwest Syria is having a catastrophic impact on the civilian population. Agencies confirm at least 160 civilians have been killed and hundreds more wounded in fighting over recent weeks.

They say 3 million people in Idlib need protection and 300,000 civilians who have fled their homes in the past two months are in imminent danger.

 

Spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Jens Laerke says civilians and civilian infrastructure are coming under daily attack by airstrikes, artillery shelling and barrel bombs.

Syria, Rebel, Idlib
FILE – Damage is seen at a hospital after an airstrike in Deir al-Sharqi village in Idlib province, Syria, April 27 2017. VOA

“Since the 28th of April, there have been 25 confirmed attacks on health care in the northwest, including on 24 health facilities and one ambulance,” he said. “Two of the attacked health facilities were hit more than once, and at least six health workers have been killed.”

Laerke says health care facilities are fully protected under international humanitarian law, and it is illegal to target them. Few health facilities remain intact to care for the sick and wounded, he told VOA.

“Already before the recent months of escalation, the status of health care in Syria at large, and in particular in Idlib, was already appalling,” he said. “Even though those facilities have not been hit, they fear that they may be hit. So, the doctors, the health care personnel are leaving, the patients are not going to those hospitals. Understandably.”

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Laerke says aid agencies are providing food and health services through mobile clinics to people who are newly displaced in northwest Syria. In addition, many schools in the region have been attacked, he says, so catch-up classes are being provided for thousands of children who have been out of school since May. (VOA)