France, Russia step up Islamic State bombing as Paris investigation grows

As the manhunt widened for suspects in the Paris attacks and police conducted dozens of more raids, French planes targeted the Islamic State group in Raqqa, Syria, with more bombing runs. Russia also hammered sites in Syria with renewed fury in the wake of the revelation that a Russian passenger plane was destroyed by a bomb. Hari Sreenivasan talks with Judy Woodruff from Paris.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The manhunt widened in France today for suspects in the Paris attacks that killed 129 people. And as the investigation intensified, so did military action by France and now Russia as well.

    Hari Sreenivasan is in Paris tonight.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Thanks, Judy.

    The search did widen for suspects today, as did the retaliation against the Islamic State. This is a country in mourning in some ways, but it's also trying to strike a balance between freedom and security of movement.

    French police conducted dozens more raids overnight, and they announced a possible second fugitive in Friday night's attacks may be on the loose. That's in addition to 26-year-old Salah Abdeslam, who is already being hunted. Equally elusive is what drove those in the plot.

    One neighbor of a dead attacker, 28-year-old Sami Amimour, said he'd been a bus driver, but had lost his job.

  • MAN (through interpreter):

    We never thought he would do that, never, ever. It's because of the people around him. But then he got fired from his job. And because of that, he started to attend mosques more and more often. I heard he was under police surveillance. He couldn't leave the neighborhood. He had to check off every day. And then he went to Syria.

  • PRESIDENT FRANCOIS HOLLANDE, France:

    (through interpreter): These fanatics attack the living and the dead, all who have humanity today and tomorrow and those of yesterday.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    President Francois Hollande has called for stepped up security measures, but today he again declared France's determination to remain an open society.

  • FRANCOIS HOLLANDE (through interpreter):

    They wanted to weaken the French passion to welcome the world to its doorstep, diminish the pride that we have as a country that exchanges with all cultures. They have already lost that fight, as, today, France, by standing up firm, determined against terror.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    This as French planes also hit the Islamic State's makeshift capital of Raqqa in Syria with more bombing runs. And in Brussels, the French defense minister invoked a never-before-used mutual defense provision in the European Union charter. All 27 other E.U. countries responded favorably, meaning they would provide all aid and assistance within their power.

  • JEAN-YVES LE DRIAN, French Defense Minister (through interpreter):

    It's the very first time it's been used. I feel that that's an important point to make. Now, what's this actually going to mean in practice? Well, either taking part in France's operations in Syria or Iraq, or by easing the load or providing support for France in other operations, so, lightening our load elsewhere. What I have said to my colleagues is that France can't do everything.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    While Parisians are nearly unanimous in their grief and support for victims of the attack, they are less so to France's response.

    Parisians have heard of the air raids in Syria by France over the last 24 hours. Some, like 23-year-old Yassine Doublali, see it as necessary.

  • YASSINE DOUBLALI, France (through interpreter):

    We just don't have a choice anymore. We're there. We are facing events we have never faced before. Men are blowing themselves up, using heavy weapons, those used in a war, so we have to respond with heavy means as well.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Sixty–year-old Agnes Hontebeyrie thinks it doesn't go far enough.

  • AGNES HONTEBEYRIE, France (through interpreter):

    Only a war on foot, on the ground, send troops there. That's the only way now to end this horrific conflict. My feeling just, like before World War II, when Churchill said you wanted peace, you got war, that's exactly what this makes me think of.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Francois Folch thinks the bombing will not be effective unless it is part of a coalition approach.

  • FRANCOIS FOLCH, France:

    I don't think this Islamic State is a real danger. I don't think so. There's one condition. Everyone has to get together, Obama, Putin, Cameron, Merkel. And if we are together, it's nothing.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Diane Baiga says the air raids won't fix the problems.

  • DIANE BAIGA, France (through interpreter):

    I think that we won't solve what's happening in France by bombings.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    She says tighter border controls and stopping arms sales to conflict regions would be more effective in preventing this, but, otherwise, she doesn't think her son is any safer today than Friday.

  • DIANE BAIGA (through interpreter):

    I don't see how they could protect me, and protect my son, adding soldiers in the streets? Me? That scares me, because, today, I don't see what kind of answer they can provide.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Russia also hammered targets in Syria purportedly tied to ISIL with renewed fury today, using fighter aircraft and cruise missiles launched from bombers and submarines, this after Russian investigators concluded a Russian passenger plane flying over Egypt late last month was bombed, killing 224 aboard. Almost all were Russians.

    National television showed the chief of Russia's federal security service briefing a grim-faced President Vladimir Putin.

  • ALEXANDER BORTNIKOV, Director, Federal Security Service (through translator):

    Vladimir Vladimirovich, according to analysis by our specialists, a homemade bomb containing up to one kilogram of TNT detonated during the flight, causing the plane to break up in midair. We can unequivocally say it was a terrorist attack.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Putin set a $50 million reward for information that leads to the arrest of the attackers. And he pledged those responsible would be found.

  • PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, Russia (through interpreter):

    We will search for them everywhere wherever they are hiding. We will find them in any spot on the planet and punish them.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Later, Putin sat with his defense minister for an elaborate briefing at a military command center with generals updating him on the progress of airstrikes. Then, he ordered his military to begin operations in concert with the French.

  • PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN (through interpreter):

    Very soon, a French navy group headed by an aircraft carrier will arrive in your area of operation. You need to establish a direct contact with the French and work with them as with allies. It is necessary to work out a joint action plan with them, both at sea and in the air.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said the U.S. will not be coordinating with Russia on its air campaign because of Russia's continued support for the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad.

  • PETER COOK, Pentagon Press Secretary:

    If the Russians would like to focus their efforts on ISIL, which is the thrust of our efforts in terms of the coalition, we'd welcome that. There's been no additional talk of further cooperation or coordination with the Russians at this point. Their policies of supporting the Assad regime continue, in our view, to be counterproductive.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Back in Paris, Secretary of State Kerry did promise increased coordination with the French on attacking ISIL, which he called by its Arabic acronym, Da'esh

    JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State: We have to step up our efforts to hit them at the core, where they're planning these things, and also obviously to do more on borders and in terms of the movement of people.

    But the level of cooperation could not be higher. We have agreed even to exchange more information. And I'm convinced that over the course of the next weeks, Da'esh will feel even greater pressure. They are feeling it today, they felt it yesterday, they felt it in the past weeks.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    But Europe is also feeling pressure. A soccer match in Germany was canceled today after police reported a possible plot to bomb the stadium in Hannover. Later, officials said they found no explosives and made no arrests.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Picking up on what you were describing is going on now in France, we understand there's just been, just in the last few minutes, been police activity there at the Place de la Republique.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Yes, Judy, if I looked a little distracted a few minutes ago, it's because there was a flurry of police activity off in the corner.

    And they just arrested three males in a car that had Belgian plates. It was guys with balaclavas that were part of the French special police. And we don't actually know if those particular individuals were guilty of anything other than, I don't know, speeding.

    But, technically speaking, the special police don't come out just for any old reason. And now you wouldn't even know that there were any police activity there at all.

    And again this is just kind of the climate and how tense everyone is around here. In the past two days, now everyone looks around the corner when they hear police cars whizzing by. I'm sure this is a big city. Police cars whiz by all the time with their sirens on, but now it takes kind of a different meaning for people.

    I was having dinner the other night and something hit an awning on top of the restaurant's — and literally a woman just fell flat on the floor because she was still so nervous. She didn't know what was happening. She didn't know whether it was a shot somewhere, and you saw other people in the restaurant immediately knew what she was going through and went over to comfort her.

    But there is just a certain tension in the air that I can't describe.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Now, Hari, we understand the French Parliament is convening tomorrow. What's that about? What's on the agenda?

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    So, Francois Hollande wants the Parliament to extend the state of emergency for an extra three months. He declared it Friday right after the attacks. And this is perhaps one of the first political tests. Right?

    Imagine right after 9/11 if all of Congress met and they started to have a debate on extending or changing the Constitution, perhaps, or extending emergency powers. Would there be a tremendous amount of debate at that point or is that the point where members of Congress or in this case members of Parliament will show a unified face?

    And this is a country, like — that values its liberties, that values the democracy, and this is also right now a country that wakes up and in the morning they pick up a paper and they read there were 168 raids the night before, there were 120 other raids the other night.

    At what point do people start asking the government more difficult questions about accountability and exactly who's being arrested and why are they being rounded that, what's the evidence that you have?

    So I think it's an interesting political test. They might not vote on it tomorrow, but Hollande wants this extension by the end of the week.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So, Hari, here in the U.S., these attacks have sparked, as you know, a big political conversation about what to do about refugees. What's the discussion like there?

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    It's interesting. The more information comes out, the more the average public at least we meet on the street is able to discern the information.

    One of the individuals that we had in our story tonight, he said something that was interesting. He said, you know, the enemy is invisible. They could be the Frenchmen that are next to us.

    And that was informed by the fact that he knew in the last couple of days that some of these attackers were French-born, they spoke French, they were Frenchmen for all practical purposes. But, in the first few hours, the piece of information that everyone grabbed on to was the fact that one of these individuals had a Syrian passport, a passport that had been checked in from Greece, that this was a strong connection to the migrant crisis, that this was — that was the problem.

    And now just even a few days later, you see people start to slice and dice a little bit more and say, OK, perhaps the migrant crisis is a different conversation, maybe there are overlaps here, but let's not just start to lump everything into the same category.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And that I think just happens. The more informed they are, the better decisions they are able to make. Hari Sreenivasan reporting for us again from Paris, we thank you.

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