Fate Of Attacks' Planner Confirmed; State Of Emergency Extended

Nov 19, 2015
Originally published on November 19, 2015 3:25 pm
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Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

We have breaking news this morning of the death of the man who is believed to have planned the attacks here in Paris last Friday. He is confirmed dead by French authorities, and the city is breathing a tentative sigh of relief for now, though this might not be over. There could still be part of a terror cell in the city. His name was Abdelhamid Abaaoud. He was in the apartment that police raided yesterday morning. Police fired more than 5,000 bullets as they entered an apartment that was blocked with a metal door. On the other side of that door, a woman blew herself up with a suicide vest. Until now, police said it had been too difficult to determine whether Abaaoud died in that raid. NPR counterterrorism correspondent Dina Temple-Raston is with us now in our Paris studios to give us the latest. Dina, good morning.

DINA TEMPLE-RASTON, BYLINE: Good morning.

GREENE: So remind us who this man was?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, he's Belgian. He's from a suburb of Brussels called Molenbeek. He's a Belgian national, but he's of Moroccan descent. He traveled to Syria in 2014. He has quite a vigorous online presence for ISIS. He has lots of followers. He has come out in their magazine, and he was an operative essentially. And he had a great network here in France and in Belgium. He went to jail, in fact, with one of the brothers who's expected - suspected - of being part of these attacks.

GREENE: And that brother is Saleh Abdeslam. What is his fate at this point? Do we know?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, they've been, as you know, searching. There's been a manhunt for Salah Abdeslam for some time. Ever since the attacks, he was very quickly identified. And they haven't been able to find him. The last time that they heard of him that they made public was that he was actually stopped by a policeman on the way to Belgium. He was with two other people in the car, and they haven't heard from him since. At the time, they didn't know that his brother, who is the one who went to jail with Abaaoud - at the time, they didn't know that he was involved in the attacks. So there was nothing wrong with his papers, so they let him go.

GREENE: Let's just sort this out here. So we had two men who were being hunted down by police. One they're now confirming is dead. The other, we're not sure, could still be on the loose. There was a lot of fear in Paris that this terror cell that committed these horrible - this horrible massacre on Friday night - I mean, attacking a soccer stadium and restaurants and cafes and a concert hall - might still be out there. I mean, can Paris breathe a sigh of relief now that Abaaoud is dead?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, the authorities have made clear that they don't think this is over. I mean, one of the problems is you don't know if there's going to be any sort of follow-on attack. When they raided those apartments yesterday - in total, there were three different apartments that they raided - they found an enormous amount of explosives and ammunition. And I heard from my intelligence sources here that they think that there was going to be another attack that was going to be on sort of the financial business district here, La Defense. And they feel they derailed that, but they don't know how many others there might be. And they're working under the assumption that there might be others. So you can breathe a sigh of relief, but as long as Salah Abdeslam is on the run, which is what we think he is, there's still some nervousness.

GREENE: Why did it take so long for French authorities to say that Abaaoud was dead if this happened - you know, this raid happened yesterday morning?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, the raid itself was quite violent. You mention that there was a metal door that they had to blow up to go through.

GREENE: Yeah.

TEMPLE-RASTON: There was a woman suicide bomber. There were grenades. There were over 5,000 shots fired. And when these - when you think about it, you know, if you have a suicide vest and you're in an apartment - they blew out the floor. They blew out part of the walls. So the police are actually having trouble getting in there to process that crime scene because the building itself is fragile.

GREENE: And I guess we'll be following this in the coming days. But again, the news this morning is that one of the men who is being hunted by French authorities believed to be the man who planned and coordinated the attacks here in Paris, an operative working on behalf of ISIS has been killed. And Dina, I know you'll be working your sources. We'll be hearing from you later. Thanks very much.

TEMPLE-RASTON: You're welcome.

GREENE: Now, over the few days since those attacks last Friday and before the news this morning, there has been tension here in Paris, people wondering whether they can get back to life as usual or not. And there's really been tension all across Europe. There have been diverted flights. There have been soccer stadiums that have been evacuated. In Germany, the government is ramping up a police presence and other security measures to try and prevent similar attacks in that country. And many Germans are growing annoyed by their government, saying the government seems to be refusing to shed light on the terror threats that they might know about. Here's my colleague, NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reporting from Berlin.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Speaking German).

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: A talk show on ARD TV opened last night with what's on many Germans' minds - how will these days of terror change our lives? Will there be more police, more military, more vulnerability? German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere says no. (SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

THOMAS DE MAIZIERE: (Speaking German).

NELSON: Following Tuesday night's bomb scare and resulting evacuations in Hanover, he told reporters that no German - himself included - is prepared to give in to terrorists by staying away from public gatherings. But he refused to say who the would-be attackers were that night or the reason why it was necessary for security forces to swoop down on Hanover and paralyze the city the way they did.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DE MAIZIERE: (Speaking German).

NELSON: De Maziere said, "some of the answers would unsettle the public. He urged Germans to simply trust the authorities. Those statements did not go over well in a country that now demands government transparency given its Nazi and Communist past. Opposition parties scolded de Maiziere, and one demanded a parliamentary inquiry. And the press and public lampooned the interior minister. On Twitter, #DoItLikeDeMaiziere was flooded with memes, including one of them asking Chancellor Angela Merkel, what do you actually think of me? To which it replies, part of the answer would only unsettle you. At a Berlin market, Sabine Arura (ph) was also critical.

SABINE ARURA: (Speaking German).

NELSON: The 55-year-old recalled officials being just as opaque earlier this year when they cancelled a carnival parade held before Lent in her city of Braunschweig because of terror threats.

ARURA: (Speaking German).

NELSON: Arura asks, "did they find something? Was there an arrest?" She adds, "everything was covered up, and that's not good." Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Berlin.

GREENE: OK, that's the picture from Germany. Of course, here in France, the government is under enormous pressure to try and prevent another attack here. French President Francois Hollande asked Parliament for an extended state of emergency, giving the government sweeping powers to make arrests. And let's talk about that with my colleague Lauren Frayer, who has been covering the story in Paris. Lauren, good morning to you.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Good morning.

GREENE: So the French National Assembly just in the last hour or so overwhelmingly voted to extend the state of emergency that the president asked for, for another three months. What exactly does that mean?

FRAYER: So that state of emergency gives French police enhanced powers to search homes without a judicial warrant. And we've already seen that this week with hundreds of raids already, dozens of arrests. It also allows them to implement curfews, establish security zones. They can place people under house arrest. It allows police to disband groups accused of supporting terrorism or inciting anyone to harm public order. And as you said, the National Assembly, the Lower House of France's Parliament, voted overwhelmingly to approve that three-month extension. And it really reflects what a majority of the French people support right now. A new poll shows 84 percent of the French people are willing to give up some of these freedoms to guarantee their security. The Senate - the Upper House of France's Parliament - is expected to vote on that issue tomorrow.

GREENE: You know, you say that the majority of people in this country are supporting those measures. I've had a really hard time kind of characterizing how people are feeling as I've gone around the city. I mean, some are saying, you know, we're going to live our lives normally. That's part of the way we fight back. Some are saying we're still very afraid. I was at a market this morning, people saying they're losing business. Everyone who comes to the market looks like they're suspicious of everyone else. I mean, what's been your sense, as you've been getting around talking to people?

FRAYER: Yeah, so people are terrorized. They had those three days of national mourning. And now they're doing a lot of things to show solidarity with one another, with the country. I mean, today - this is an example - today is the debut of the Beaujolais Nouveau. It's the day that they pop open this year's new wine. And there are wine tastings scheduled across the country. Trucks are actually going around Paris today, offering tastings at the Eiffel Tower and elsewhere. And suddenly, it's something like going out for a glass of wine is a show of activism, a show of solidarity with your countrymen, with your cuisine, with your country's values. And street cafes have been pretty packed. A local foodie website launched a campaign called Everyone to the Bistro, occupy the bistros, encouraging people to get back out in the restaurants and cafes, have fun. The other night, tons of people came out to watch this televised soccer game, England versus France, the national soccer teams of those countries. Bars went silent. People stood up and sang along to the French national anthem. And also, the French Army has said its requests for recruitment info - so people potentially interested in joining France's armed forces - have tripled since the attacks last Friday.

GREENE: Wow, that is interesting. I guess, I mean, you have the president saying we're at war now. And that might cause some people to say they are ready to serve in a way that they weren't before. What about visitors, tourists? Are tourists still coming to the city? I mean, it's such a tourism capital.

FRAYER: It's such a concern. I mean, France is the number one tourist destination in the world. Hotels and restaurants have suffered cancellations. While the museums and Disneyland Paris were closed earlier this week, you had families of foreign tourists, you know, to walking the wide avenues of Paris taking snapshots instead of the monuments of flowers and condolence messages piling up.

GREENE: All right, that's my colleague Lauren Frayer, speaking to us here in Paris with the news this morning that a man believed to have carried out, coordinated, planned the attacks in Paris last Friday has been killed - that according to French authorities. And we'll be following this story all day. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.