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France deploys 115,000 personnel,128 overnight raids

Paris: Following last week’s Paris attacks by Islamist militants that claimed at least 129 lives, French authorities have mobilised 115,000 personnel to ratchet up security across the country, media reports said on Tuesday.

“We have mobilised 115,000 police, gendarmes and military over the whole of our national territory to insure the protection of French people,” French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said on Tuesday.

The interior minister added that 128 raids on suspected Islamist militants had been carried out overnight on Monday to Tuesday, BBC reported.

A total of 104 suspects were placed under house arrest and seized weapons that include a rocket launcher, a CNN report said.

More than 160 raids were made earlier on Monday, with 23 people arrested and dozens of weapons seized.

French warplanes carried out a new round of airstrikes on the Islamic State’s (IS) Syrian stronghold of Raqqa earlier on Tuesday. Authorities reported seven strikes and at least three major explosions in the city.

A huge manhunt was under way for 26-year-old Belgian-born French national Salah Abdeslam, one of the key suspects of the attack.

He is believed to have fled across the border to his native Belgium where Belgian police have released more pictures of the wanted man.

The Belgian government has raised its terror threat level because of the failure so far to arrest Abdeslam. Tuesday’s football match between the national team and Spain has been cancelled as a result.

Investigators are also reported to be focusing on a Belgian of Moroccan descent who is described as the possible mastermind of the attacks.

Abdelhamid Abaoud, 27, lived in the Molenbeek neighbourhood of Brussels, as did two of the attackers, and is now believed to be based in Syria, where he has risen through the IS ranks.

Abaaoud was implicated in the planning of a number of terrorist attacks and conspiracies in Western Europe before the Paris attacks. Believed to be close to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Abaaoud was linked to a plan to attack Belgian police that was thwarted in January.

He has since been featured in ISIS’ online English-language magazine, Dabiq. His current whereabouts are unknown.

Declaring the country to be “at war”, President Francois Hollande has proposed extending the state of emergency for a further three months along with sweeping new anti-terrorism laws.

Three teams of terrorists on November 13 staged coordinated attacks at six locations across Paris, including a concert hall, the Stade de France and at least two restaurants. At least 129 people were killed and 352 others wounded in the attacks.

Two of the total seven dead attackers were identified as Ismael Omar Mostefai, 29, and Bilal Hafdi, aged 20.

(With inputs from IANS)

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