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France deploys 115,000 personnel,128 overnight raids

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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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Fight Against Terrorism: Iran, Pakistan Agree To Set Up Joint Border ‘Reaction Force’

Stressing that "no third country" could harm Iran-Pakistan ties, an apparent reference to the United States, Rohani said Tehran was ready to boost trade and business ties with Islamabad.

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Pakistan
Iranian President Hassan Rohani (left) and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan reviewing an honor guard in Tehran on April 22. RFERL

Iranian President Hassan Rohani and visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan have agreed to set up a joint border “reaction force” to counter terrorism, Iranian state media reported.

“We agreed to create a joint rapid reaction force at the borders for combatting terrorism,” Rohani was quoted as saying on April 22 during a joint press conference with Khan, who was officially welcomed in the Iranian capital earlier in the day.

The announcement comes following tensions between the two countries who have in recent months accused each other of not doing enough to stamp out militants allegedly sheltering across the border.

“Pakistan will not allow any militant group to operate” from its soil, Khan said at the press conference while adding that the problem of terrorism was “increasing differences” between both countries.

“So it was very important for me to come here and come with our security chief that we resolve this issue,” Khan said.

Pakistan
The visit comes a day after Pakistan asked Iran to take action against terrorist groups believed to be behind the killing of 14 Pakistani soldiers earlier this month. Pixabay

Citing a militant attack on Pakistani security forces in Baluchistan on April 18, he said, Pakistan’s security chief will be meeting his Iranian counterpart on April 22 to discuss how both countries can cooperate in not allowing their soil to be used by militant groups.

Stressing that “no third country” could harm Iran-Pakistan ties, an apparent reference to the United States, Rohani said Tehran was ready to boost trade and business ties with Islamabad.

For his part, Khan said his visit to Tehran aimed to “find ways to increase trade and cooperation…in energy and other areas,” noting that two-way trade was “very limited.”

Khan arrived in Iran on April 21 on his first official visit to the Islamic republic for talks set to focus on strengthening bilateral ties, “fighting terrorism, and safeguarding borders,” Iranian state media reported.

The two countries have in recent months accused each other of not doing enough to stamp out militants allegedly sheltering across the border.

The two-day trip started with a stopover in the holy city of Mashhad, where Khan visited the shrine of Imam Reza, who is revered by Shi’ite Muslims.

The visit comes a day after Pakistan asked Iran to take action against terrorist groups believed to be behind the killing of 14 Pakistani soldiers earlier this month.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on April 20 that 15 gunmen wearing military uniforms ambushed a bus in southwestern Balochistan Province on April 18, killing 14 Pakistani Army personnel.

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“We agreed to create a joint rapid reaction force at the borders for combatting terrorism,” Rohani was quoted as saying on April 22 during a joint press conference with Khan, who was officially welcomed in the Iranian capital earlier in the day. Pixabay

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said in a letter to the Iranian government that the assailants came from an alliance of three Baluch terrorist organizations based in Iran.

Qureshi told reporters that Khan would take up the matter with Iranian authorities.

Earlier this year, Iran called on Pakistan to take action against a militant group behind a deadly attack on the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

Also Read: Measles Could be Completely Wiped Off, Instead it’s Making a Comeback

Twenty-seven IRGC members were killed in the February suicide car bombing near the border with Pakistan.

The Sunni Muslim extremist group Jaish al-Adl claimed responsibility for the attack in southeastern Iran. (RFERL)