Paris attacks investigation: Latest developments

Posted at 3:58 PM, Nov 17, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-17 15:58:47-05

A Renault with Belgian plates, syringes in a hotel room and a cell phone containing a chilling message were among the Tuesday focuses of the wide-ranging multinational investigation into last week’s terror attacks in Paris that killed 129 people.

French President Francois Hollande says his country “is at war” after three teams of gun-wielding ISIS suicide bombers hit six busy locations. His military backed up the statement by pounding ISIS targets in Syria with airstrikes. Russia also launched airstrikes and cruise missiles there.

Meanwhile, a glimmer of hope for Syria’s civil war, as America’s top diplomat says a ceasefire could be on the horizon.

Here’s the key information at this stage:

The latest

— NEW: Investigators in Paris have recovered a cell phone believed to belong to one of the attackers, which could yield insight into the plot and the suspected network behind it, counterterrorism and intelligence officials told CNN. The phone contained a message, sent sometime before the attacks began, to the effect of: OK, we’re ready, the officials said.

— NEW: Police asked for the public’s help identifying a suicide bomber from the Stade de France. Police issued a photo of him. Following the attack at the Stade de France, police found an emergency passport or similar document identifying him as a 25-year-old Syrian using the name Ahmad al Muhammad, which authorities believe is fake.

The investigation

— There is a “strong presumption” that a second suspect linked to the Paris attacks is still at large, an official source close to the investigation told CNN. The other suspect is Salah Abdeslam.

— One of the voices heard in an ISIS video claiming responsibility for the Paris attacks is that of Fabien Clain, a French senior ISIS operative, according to a French security source. Clain, who was convicted in 2009 for his invovlement in al Qaeda in Iraq recruitment effort, is suspected of having a link with a plot to attack churches in Paris in April and the thwarted attack on the high-speed Amsterdam-to-Paris train in August, European security officials told CNN.

— German police say they’ve now arrested five men and two women in Alsdorf, though Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said there does not appear to be a close connection between those arrested and the Paris attacks.

— Les Beguines, a A Brussels bar registered to one of the Paris attackers, Ibrahim Abdeslam, was closed for drug-related offenses eight days before the Paris attacks, according to Molenbeek, Belgium, Mayor Francoise Schepmans.

— A black Renault Clio with Belgian plates found in Paris’ 18th arrondissement, on the north side of the city, had been rented by Salah Abdeslam, the 26-year-old French citizen being sought in connection with the attacks, police sources said, according to French media outlets.

— German police say their arrest tally in connection with the Paris attacks is now five: Two women and a man were arrested in an initial operation in Alsdorf, while two others were apprehended during a second operation in the same town.

— Police searching two suburban Paris hotel rooms rented by Salah Abdeslam found syringes that may have been used to make the other attackers’ explosive vests, French media reported. The rooms contained pizza boxes, as well as tubes and other material that are being tested for explosives, according to the reports.

— Prior to the Paris terrorist attacks, France and its allies tried to target Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the prominent ISIS member believed to have planned the attack, a French source close to the investigation said. They were unable to locate him, the source told CNN. Secretary of State John Kerry told CNN he could not confirm the report.

— Officials have identified some of the suspects, while one remains on the loose and two remain unidentified. Abaaoud is believed by counterterrorism officials to be the likely link between the senior ISIS leadership and the militant group’s operatives in European countries, while Salah Abdeslam remains on the run. Officials have identified three of the suicide bombers as Frenchmen Samy Amimour, Ismael Omar Mostefai and Bilal Hadfi. The newspaper, Le Monde, reports that Salah’s older brother, Ibrahim, was one of the suicide bombers.

— Salah Abdeslam was the subject of a “routine check” on a motorway in northwest Austria on September 9, said Karl Heinz Grundboeck, spokesman for Austria’s Interior Ministry. The routine check did not result in any further investigation.

— At least three people believed linked to Friday’s Paris terror attacks were known to Belgian authorities beforehand, Belgian federal prosecutor Eric Van Der Sypt said, identifying them as Bilal Hadfi and brothers Ibrahim and Salah Abdeslam.

— Little is known about the two suicide bombers who attacked the Stade de France with Hadfi. One may have carried a Turkish passport, according to a French senator briefed by the Interior Ministry, while the other carried an emergency passport or similar document identifying him as a 25-year-old Syrian using the name Ahmad al Muhammad, which authorities believe is a fake name.

The scene in France

— The upcoming Charlie Hedbo satirical magazine is expected to hit newsstands Wednesday. The cover reads: “They have the weapons. Screw them. We have the champagne!” The magazine’s office was the target of a terror attack in July.

— Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Hollande spoke on the phone and “the two leaders paid special attention to stepping up bilateral and multilateral cooperation to counter international terrorism,” the Kremlin said.

— Hollande will visit Washington next week, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said.

— French authorities carried out 128 new security raids overnight, officials said.

— French authorities say they have taken 23 people into custody, put 104 under house arrest and seized weapons that include a rocket launcher.

Around the globe

— The office of German Chancellor Angela Merkel confirms that she was due to attend Tuesday’s friendly soccer match between Germany and The Netherlands in Hannover. But the match was canceled after police uncovered “serious plans for explosives,” Volker Kluwe, police chief for the Lower Saxony region, of which Hannover is the capital, told German public broadcaster NDR. The stadium was evacuated.

— British Prime Minister David Cameron told Parliament he will try to convince them to approve UK airstrikes against ISIS in Syria. Presently, the UK is participating only in strikes on Iraq.

— Kerry called the attacks in Paris “an aberration,” further saying, “This is not normal. It will not be normal. It will not become normal.”

— Kerry also said a new coalition that includes Iran and Russia “gives us an opportunity to, perhaps, get a ceasefire in place within the next three, four, five weeks,” ending a civil war that’s been ongoing since 2011.

— The Russian Metrojet plane jet that crashed over the Sinai last month was brought down by a bomb estimated to contain 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of explosives, the head of the Russian Federal Security Service said. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. Russia is offering $50 million for information leading to the arrest of those responsible. Egypt’s government said it would “take into consideration” the Russian findings.

— Egyptian authorities are denying a report they’ve arrested two Sharm el-Sheikh airport employees in connection with the downing of Russia’s Metrojet Flight 9268 over the Sinai Peninsula.

— Ten French warplanes were involved in overnight airstrikes on the ISIS-stronghold of Raqqa, Syria, the Defense Ministry said. Six jets delivered 16 bombs and hit a training center and command center that were part of the ISIS headquarters, the ministry said. Russia also doubled its airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said, explaining that it had hit ISIS targets with airstrikes and cruise missiles in Raqqa, Deir Ezzor and Aleppo and Idlib provinces. In total, the minister said, Russia conducted 127 missions targeting 206 terrorist sites.

— The France-England soccer friendly kicked off under tight security at Wembley Stadium. The match — the French national team’s first since the attacks — was expected to be an emotional affair, especially for two players: Midfielder Lassana Diarra’s cousin was among those killed, and striker Antoine Griezmann’s sister narrowly survived. Meanwhile, a soccer match between Belgium and Spain, scheduled in Brussels, was canceled for security concerns.

— More than two dozen U.S. states have said they oppose accepting any refugees from Syria. The State Department said it is taking the governors’ concerns seriously, but it remains “steadfastly committed” to bringing in 10,000 Syrian refugees next year, spokesman Mark Toner said.