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UN approves action against 'global threat' of IS

Published 20/11/2015

French prime minister Manuel Valls says the terror threat will be long and permanent
French prime minister Manuel Valls says the terror threat will be long and permanent

Military action against Islamic State (IS) in Syria grew a step closer after the United Nations Security Council approved plans to redouble its efforts to prevent further attacks from extremists.

The council backed a French-sponsored resolution designed to "to combat by all means this unprecedented threat" at a meeting tonight, saying IS "constitutes a global and unprecedented threat to international peace and security".

France will be on a state of high alert until well into the new year after the country's senate voted to extend a state of emergency for three months following last week's deadly attacks.

The move expands powers to allow police to carry out arrests and searches, while authorities can ban the movement of people and vehicles at specific times and places.

Prime Minister David Cameron hailed the UN decision as "an important moment", saying "the world has united against Isil".

The resolution came hours after the death toll from the terrorist atrocities rose to 130, one week since Islamic State (IS) militants attacked a concert hall, the French national stadium and several cafes and restaurants in Paris, leaving hundreds injured. Ninety remain in intensive care.

Seven days on, Parisians replaced the sounds of explosions and gunfire in their streets and squares with music, noise and light as they gathered in their thousands to stand together and defy the terrorists.

Large crowds converged at the scenes of the attacks and landmarks across the French capital at 9.20pm (8.20pm British time) to hold vigils and mark the exact moment last week that IS militants set in motion a series of co-ordinated attacks.

Bouquets were laid at the Place de la Republique, lit by the flames of hundreds of candles, and in Parisian style people opened bottles of wine on the street to toast those who died in the massacres.

At the cafe La Belle Equipe, where one of the gun attacks took place, mourners broke into a round of applause at a memorial for the victims. Elsewhere around Paris landmarksm including the French parliament and Eiffel Tower, were illuminated in the red, white and blue of the Tricolor.

But despite the defiance, fear remains in the air as politicians and intelligence services desperately try to bolster security measures across Europe.

Belgian authorities have filed terror charges against a third suspect over the attacks, with two others in custody.

The prosecutor's office said: "The person that was arrested yesterday has been charged by the investigating judge with participation in terrorist attacks and participation in the activities of a terrorist organisation, and placed into custody."

Earlier today a third body was discovered in the wreckage of the flat in a northern Paris suburb where the suspected mastermind behind the attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, 27, died in a shoot-out with police on Wednesday.

The three dead included Abaaoud and his female cousin Hasna Aitboulahcen, 26, but the third person's identity and gender is yet to be established.

It was initially thought that Aitboulahcen blew herself up during the gunfight, but Paris prosecutors said she was killed in the police raid but was not a suicide bomber.

Amid the widespread tightening of security, European Union interior ministers have agreed to draw up plans for the "systematic control" of all people entering the bloc after it was disclosed that Belgium-born Abaaoud was able to slip into the country undetected.

French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the measure - which would affect everyone crossing the external borders of the travel-free Schengen zone - represented a "crucial" change.

Tonight it emerged that t wo of the three suicide bombers who targeted the Stade de France as France played Germany in a football friendly both passed through Greece on the same day last month, news which will fan calls for tighter border security.

Paris prosecutors said the men were checked by authorities in Greece on October 3. Greek officials have previously said that a man carrying a Syrian passport with the name Ahmad Al-Mohammad was processed on the island of Leros on the same date, having arrived there from Turkey.

The passport was found next to the body of a suicide bomber at the French national stadium and investigators are trying to ascertain whether it was genuine.

Police in France have carried out 793 raids since last week's attacks, the interior ministry revealed.

In five nights of targeted operations 90 people have been held and 174 weapons seized, including 18 military-style firearms, 84 rifles and 68 handguns.

A further 164 people have been placed under house arrest under state of emergency powers, and 250,000 euro (£175,000) were seized.

The scale of the international Islamist threat has been underlined by an attack by gunmen on an international hotel in Bamako, the capital of the west African country of Mali - a former French colony - which left at least 19 dead and saw scores of hostages taken. Two attackers were also killed.

Authorities there have declared a 10-day state of emergency following the attack, which a n extremist group that split from al Qaida's North Africa branch two years ago led by Algerian terrorist Moktar Belmoktar claimed to have carried out.

Arriving for emergency talks in Brussels earlier today, Home Secretary Theresa May backed French calls to clamp down on illegal arms trafficking and long-delayed measures to gather information on airline passengers.

Amid widespread concerns that extremists are returning from fighting in Syria and Iraq to Europe unchecked, Mr Cazeneuve said further delay was unacceptable.

"We can't take more time. This is urgent," he said. "Terrorists are crossing the borders of the European Union."

Mrs May underlined the need for improved security across the EU, saying: "What we have seen is that there was a clear link between security of the EU's external borders and security within the EU.

"I would like to see all member states committed to improving the measures and penalties for dealing with those who traffic in firearms."

The Home Secretary said there also needed to be "immediate progress" on obtaining access to passenger name records.

"The negotiation has taken too long. That must be concluded. The UK will go ahead with obtaining records from those operating to and from the United Kingdom," she said.

Speaking on French television ahead of the meeting, prime minister Manuel Valls said members of the terrorist cell had taken advantage of the "chaos" caused by the refugee crisis to slip into the country undetected.

While Abaaoud was quickly identified by French investigators as the likely mastermind of the Paris attacks, it was originally thought he had co-ordinated them from Syria where he was fighting with IS.

But on Monday, the French received a tip-off from the intelligence agency of a non-European country that Abaaoud - who had previously boasted of moving between Belgium and Syria unhindered - had managed to cross back into the EU through Greece.

However, a senior Greek security official has now insisted there was no record of him passing through the country, which is at the forefront of Europe's immigration crisis, although he could not rule out him having entered on a false passport.

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