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Confirming death, France laments lack of intelligence sharing over Paris suspect’s movements

The so-called mastermind of the Paris attacks was killed in a battle with police in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis on Wednesday, confirmed authorities. While the French Assembly voted to extend a national state of emergency for three months, Belgian police made more arrests in a neighborhood with ties to the attackers. Judy Woodruff speaks to Hari Sreenivasan, reporting from Paris.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    French officials claimed a major kill today in their hunt for those behind the Paris attacks. They announced the ringleader of last Friday's massacre died early yesterday in an all-out battle with police.

    Hari Sreenivasan begins our coverage.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Official word of Abdelhamid Abaaoud's death came as forensic teams police worked at the scene of the raid that killed him in Saint-Denis. Authorities had already said two people were killed and eight others arrested.

    But, today, the Paris prosecutor confirmed one of the bodies was indeed Abaaoud's, based on analysis of his fingerprints.

    French Prime Minister Manuel Valls formally announced it to members of Parliament.

  • MANUEL VALLS, Prime Minister France (through interpreter):

    Most of you already know this, but Abaaoud, one of the masterminds, was found amongst those who were killed. I would like to pay tribute once again to the incredible work done by our intelligence services and the police.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    The 27-year-old Belgian Abaaoud was thought to be in Syria. But he'd bragged in the Islamic State's English magazine that he was able to slip in and out of Europe undetected. And at a news conference, the French interior minister complained that other countries failed to report his movements.

  • BERNARD CAZENEUVE, Interior Minister, France (through interpreter):

    Abdelhamid Abaaoud obviously played a key role in these attacks. We didn't receive any prior information from any European country where he could have gone through before reaching France. It was only on Monday that the intelligence services of a country based outside Europe told us they had evidence of his presence in Greece.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    French investigators believe Abaaoud was behind four of six failed plots since the spring. They have yet to detail his exact role during the Paris attacks or his location in the days leading up to it.

    The circumstances of his death in Saint-Denis are also unclear, although officials said his body was riddled with bullets. His cousin, identified as the other person who died in the raid, is believed to have blown herself up just after an exchange with police captured in this audio recording.

    (GUNSHOTS)

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    There's gunfire. Then police ask, "Where is your boyfriend?"

    "He's not my boyfriend," she says. And police again ask where he is.

    The woman repeats, "He's not my boyfriend," followed by more shots, and an explosion, possibly her suicide vest detonating.

    A day after the raid that killed the ringleader of the Paris attacks, the people here in Saint-Denis, a working-class neighborhood that's trying to pull itself back up, are concerned that this event will undermine those efforts.

    Monique Jeffroy was born in Saint-Denis, and has lived here all her life.

  • MONIQUE JEFFROY, Saint-Denis Resident (through interpreter):

    It gives the impression that this is a terrible town, with the police everywhere, everywhere. It's far from the truth. That's not what this area is like. On a cultural level it is a very interesting town. There are a lot of people who are motivated to help improve it.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Inside the area cordoned off by police are dozens of shuttered shops, including one that employs Jean Francois De Fournier.

  • MAN:

    If me — have to buy something, never I'm coming to Saint-Denis again.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Why not?

  • MAN:

    For the security. Everybody will be afraid of Saint-Denis, like they will be afraid of the Bataclan.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Locals like Dies Granis are happy with the investigation into this act, but also with Parliament's extension of the state of emergency today.

    DIES GRANIS, Nearby resident (through interpreter): It will allow the police and everyone to carry out inquiries more seriously without waiting for the bureaucracy, which will delay it. It helps open doors. I think it's a good thing.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    That vote today in the National Assembly was overwhelming, 551-to-6, to extend the emergency for three months. It followed a fresh warning from Prime Minister Valls about what Islamist extremists might try next.

  • MANUEL VALLS (through interpreter):

    The way of carrying out an attack, of killing, is constantly evolving. Today, nothing can be excluded. And I say this, of course, with all the necessary precautions, but we know it and we have it in mind. There is also the risk of chemical or biological weapons. This is a new kind of war, because borders are of no concern.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Meanwhile, in Belgium, there were nine more raids today in and around the poor Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek. Authorities said nine people were detained in all. Seven had ties to Bilal Hadfi, one of the suicide bombers who died in the Paris attacks. Molenbeek was also the home of Salah Abdeslam, another suspect in the attacks who's still on the run.

    Belgian police have now issued this alert about him.

  • MAN (through interpreter):

    Salah Abdeslam, one of the main suspects in the attacks, is possibly still in our country. The man is 26, slim and about 5 feet, 9 inches tall. He is extremely dangerous and likely armed too. So, in case you see him, certainly do not take action yourself, but warn police immediately.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    In addition, Belgium's prime minister, Charles Michel, announced a series of new measures, including $427 million to expand the anti-terror fight.

  • CHARLES MICHEL, Belgian Prime Minister (through interpreter):

    We want to act along four major lines, first to eradicate messages of hate and calls to violence, second, to concentrate efforts and our means on individuals who have been flagged as potentially dangerous, third, to strengthen the security measures, and, finally, to act on an international level.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Michel also said he wants to amend the Belgian constitution to lengthen the time terror suspects can be held without a charge.

    And in Italy, authorities announced they're looking for five people after a U.S. warning that Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome, among other sites, might be potential targets in a new plot.

    Italian authorities also made a couple of arrests today. A couple of men were trying to get to Malta on fake passports. But those aren't the only arrests. In Sweden, there was an arrest of an Iraqi man with suspected ties to Iraq. And in Kuwait, there was a group of arrests of what they think is an ISIS cell that was supporting them with funds and with weapons — Judy.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So, Hari, I noticed in your report you mentioned French officials complaining today about intelligence sharing, or the lack thereof, from other countries. And then now we see these arrests happening all over Europe.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Yes.

    In fact, the head of Europol, Rob Wainwright, actually spoke at the European Parliament today. And this is what he was pleading for, that how we do we figure out a way to get these 28 countries to share intelligence?

    The Europol folks have a database. They say there are 2,000 European fighters who have left Europe and gone to Iraq or Syria perhaps to be trained.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Now, Hari, tell us, what are the French themselves doing to step up their own efforts, whether it's intelligence or whatever else?

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Right.

    The prime minister today called for a deeper investigation in exactly how it is that Abaaoud was able to slip in and out and even brag about it in that magazine about how he can get into Europe so easily. And the president, President Hollande, after meeting with his defense council, also said they're — quote — "intensifying" their militaries actions against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Hari, finally, do you get the sense that French officials continue to feel under a lot of pressure over this?

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Yes, I think so, because right now — today was the Lower House of Parliament. Tomorrow, there is another house that will vote on this.

    If today's vote is any indication, it will be probably be nearly unanimous there as well. But there is a sense of urgency here. People are expecting their politicians to be held accountable, especially considering the gravity of this attack.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Hari Sreenivasan, joining us once again from Paris, thanks. And we will turn to the growing threat of Islamic State attacks around the world after the news summary.

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