A brother of two suspects linked to the attacks that rocked Paris last week told reporters on Monday that his family has been surprised to learn their relatives could have been involved in the violence that has left at least 129 people dead.
"My family and I...
The manhunt for a suspected Paris attacker widened on Tuesday as authorities pieced together a more detailed picture of the group of terrorists who killed at least 129 people last week.
Authorities searching for Salah Abdeslam -- the only identified suspect still believed to be alive -- have announced that they're now looking for another fugitive linked to the attacks, according to The Associated Press. The potential ninth attacker has not been identified, but authorities reported that the person could have been traveling with Abdeslam.
The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attacks, and French authorities believe three coordinated teams of terrorists are responsible for the massacre, according to Paris prosecutor François Molins. Seven of the known attackers are now dead after detonating suicide explosives.
On Tuesday, French National Police tweeted out a call for information about an unidentified man they say is one of the dead attackers. "This individual is the deceased attacker in one of the terror plots committed on November 13 at the Stade de France," the notice reads, translated from French.
Meanwhile, authorities across Europe are conducting raids to look for accomplices. Prosecutors in Belgium, where several of the attackers had ties, announced charges against two additional men for their alleged involvement in the bombings and shootings last Friday.
The two men are Mohammed Amri, 27, and Hamza Attou, 21, who allegedly drove to Paris and picked up Abdeslam. The men's lawyers say the two did drive Abdeslam back to Brussels, but deny they were involved in the attacks. Authorities said the same ingredients used in the Paris bombs turned up in a search of the men's residence.
The accused ringleader of the attacks, a radicalized Belgian believed to be a recruiter for the Islamic State, supposedly organized earlier terror plots in Western Europe and was targeted by Western airstrikes in Syria last month, according to The New York Times.
In addition to suspected attacker Salah Abdeslam, five of the deceased attackers and the alleged mastermind have been identified so far. Here's what we know about them.
Authorities have said that Abdelhamid Abaaoud, 28, is a radicalized Belgian who was the ringleader of the Paris attacks. He is believed to be in Syria, where he’s allegedly fought alongside ISIS.
Abaaoud is well-known to European officials, who say he's connected to previous plots and failed attacks, including a plan to assassinate police officers and an August incident in which passengers subdued a gunman on a train bound for Paris.
Western military forces targeted him in airstrikes against the Islamic State as recently as last month, The New York Times reported on Tuesday.
Abaaoud’s father has accused him of kidnapping of his 13-year-old brother and bringing him to Syria to wage jihad.
Appearing in ISIS propaganda videos and in the group's English-language magazine, Dabiq, Abaaoud has bragged about evading Western authorities and urged Muslims worldwide to join him in Syria. One explicit video shows him in a pickup truck in Syria that is dragging mutilated bodies behind it.
Tried in absentia in Belgium, Abaaoud was sentenced to 20 years in prison for recruiting for the terrorist organization. Before becoming an extremist, he had reportedly been locked up for theft.
Ismail Omar Mostefai
French officials identified Ismael Omar Mostefai as one of the Paris attackers after his suicide belt exploded at the Bataclan theater. He was a 29-year-old Frenchman who was being monitored for links to Islamic radicalism, Molins said on Saturday.
Authorities were able to identify Mostefai from a piece of his finger they found after the suicide bombing, Le Monde reported. They also found a weapon that they traced to the suburb where he grew up.
Mostefai's father, a brother and other family members were being questioned Sunday.
"It's a crazy thing, it's madness," his brother told AFP after turning himself in to police.
The brother had cut ties with Mostefai years ago and said he was unaware of his radicalization, AFP reported. He believed Mostefai had gone to Algeria with his daughter.
The brother's neighbor supported his claims. "[Mostefai's brother and his wife] were an extraordinary couple. They had been disconnected from any activity for a long time," the man told news channel iTélé.
Mostefai, born in the Chartres region of France in 1985, allegedly spent a few months in Syria sometime between 2013 and 2014, Le Monde reported. A senior Turkish official said on Monday that he had entered Turkey in 2013. The official also said that Turkey had warned France about Mostefai in December 2014 and again in June.
Mostefai's acquaintances seemed unaware of his plans. "He was really, really, really discreet," one of his neighbors told iTélé.
Brahim Abdeslam, 31, is believed to have been the suicide bomber at the Boulevard Voltaire. The Frenchman lived and worked in the Brussels immigrant neighborhood of Molenbeek. He was known to be involved in theft and drug trafficking, according to Belgian newspaper La Libre Belgique.
Until recently, Brahim Abdeslam had owned a bar in his neighborhood that his neighbors complained about. Police who’d searched the bar in August noticed the “strong smell of drugs” and found partially smoked joints in ashtrays. Abdeslam sold the bar in September.
France's national police on Sunday tweeted a wanted poster for Salah Abdeslam, Brahim's brother, who was born in Brussels in 1989. Salah managed the bar owned by his older brother, according to Reuters.
Police say he rented a Volkswagen that was found near the Bataclan.
After the attack, police stopped Salah and two other men at a checkpoint near the Belgian border. Authorities allowed them to continue on their journey, realizing only later that they’d let a suspected attacker slip through their grasp.
The two men in the car with Salah have been arrested, though they deny involvement in the attack.
Authorities have carried out raids to find Salah in his home neighborhood in Brussels and in the western German city of Aachen, but the hunt for the most wanted man in Europe has so far been a bust.
Authorities also detained Salah and Brahim's brother, Mohamed Abdeslam, but they later released him. He has denied any involvement in the attacks and said he hoped Salah would turn himself in to authorities.
Abdeslam told reporters in front of his home on Monday that he has worked for the city government for years without problems, and had "no links whatsoever to what happened."
He also said how shocked his family remains over some family members being linked to the attacks.
"My family and I have been touched by what has happened,"Abdeslam said. "We have learned about this through the media, like many of you. It didn't cross our minds that one of our brothers could have been linked to these attacks. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families. But you have to understand that we have a mother, a family, and despite everything, he remains their child."
Frenchman Bilal Hadfi, 20, was identified as one of the attackers at the Stade de France. European intelligence officials told The Washington Post that he had spent time in Syria.
Paris-born Samy Amimour, 28, took part in the raid on the Bataclan, French officials said. RTL reported he had been charged with terrorism offenses in 2012 and was put under judicial control, but he violated the terms. Authorities issued an international warrant for Amimour's arrest in 2013, the same year he traveled to Syria.
Authorities also found a Syrian passport near the Stade de France explosion site, Molins announced Saturday. The passport allegedly belonged to Ahmad Al-Mohammad, who was born in 1990 in Syria. He hadn't been on French authorities' radar prior to the attack.
The Serbian interior ministry said Sunday that Al-Mohammad crossed from Turkey to the Greek island of Leros on Oct. 3 with many refugees. He was reportedly traveling with a second man, Mohammed Almuhamed, according to The Guardian.
After Al-Mohammad arrived in Athens on Oct. 8, authorities did not continue tracking him, the AP reported. His passport was registered in both Croatia and Serbia, where he ultimately sought asylum, per The Washington Post.
It is still not clear whether the passport is real or fake.
Potential Ninth Attacker
On Tuesday, authorities revealed that an unidentified third person traveling with the Abdeslam brothers is still at large, and might have been directly involved in the attacks.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misspelled one of the alleged assailants last names. He is Bilal Hadfi, not Hafdi.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.
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Powerful explosions rocked a major port city in northeastern China on Wednesday, killing at least 50 and injuring over 700. Large enough to be seen from space, the blasts lit up the night sky and shook buildings miles away.
The explosions in Tianjin started at a container-port warehouse that stored hazardous materials in the city's Binhai New Area section, according to state news agency Xinhua.
The first in a series of explosions occurred around 11:30 p.m., sending enormous fireballs and a mushroom cloud rising over the city. Debris and glass rained down on Tianjin, and the explosions were so powerful that they registered as small earthquakes, Reuters reports.
Niu Aimin, a street cleaner nearby, felt the terror of the blasts.
"We were there at home and then suddenly, BOOM! It was just like an earthquake. I ran outside and then saw fire lighting up the sky," he told The WorldPost.
Photos and videos of the blasts and the devastating aftermath quickly circulated online. The images showed fierce fires, destroyed buildings, shattered windows and smoke billowing from the ruins of the container port.
The city's police department said that the warehouse where the first blasts occurred was owned by Rui Hai International Logistics. A fire had been reported in the area earlier that night. The exact cause of the original blast is still under review, but Chinese Premier Li Keqiang "vowed a thorough investigation," Xinhua reports.
The first explosion triggered several others. Twelve firefighters who had been sent to fight the initial blaze were among the dead. Six thousand people were forced to leave their homes. Local Communist Party official Zhang Yong said at a press conference that 10,000 medical staff were working to treat those affected, The Guardian reports.
Fires in the area smoldered throughout the day on Thursday. Firefighting efforts at the site were suspended over the lack of clarity about what "dangerous goods" were in the warehouse, according to a statement posted on the local government's official Weibo account.
Fears mounted over the possible consequences of the explosions and whether it was safe for Tianjin's 15 million residents to remain in the the city. Chinese social media was awash with rumors of the potential for more explosions as well as worry over toxic chemicals.
Greenpeace Asia called on the Chinese government to release information on what chemicals had been released into the air, as well as the cause of the blast.
Wang Yupeng was at home about 10 miles from the explosion when the blasts occurred and ran out of his house in fear of an earthquake. Sixteen hours later, he still wore a face mask when going outside.
"There's still smoke in the sky," Wang told The WorldPost. "You never know."
Volunteer groups banded together in Tianjin on Thursday to help those affected by the blast.
Zhang Jiexiao, a 20-year-old university student from a neighboring city, hopped on a free volunteer shuttle as soon as he heard the news and made his way to a volunteer headquarters at a nearby elementary school. He joined a group using a mobile chat app to alert members where and when cars, food or water were needed.
Across the street from the school, residents, families and volunteers gathered for a vigil. They placed candles in a heart around the word "Teda," the name of the development zone in which the blasts occurred.
Residents also took to social media to pay tribute to the firefighters who had lost their lives in the tragedy. One widely shared illustration on Weibo showed a firefighter heading toward the flames as other people walked away.
Wednesday's explosions were so large that they were visible from space, according to Dan Lindsey, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research meteorologist at Colorado State University's Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere.
Lindsey told The WorldPost that he had pinpointed the location of the blasts using data from the Japanese Meteorological Agency's Himawari-8 satellite.
Charlotte Alfred and Alexandra Ma contributed to this report.
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Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Wednesday that plane debris found on the shore of Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean belongs to missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, Reuters reports.
“Today, 513 days since the plane disappeared, it is with a very heavy heart that I must tell you that an international team of experts has conclusively confirmed that the aircraft debris found on Reunion is indeed from MH370," the prime minister said in a televised statement that aired early Thursday morning in Malaysia. "We now have physical evidence that, as I announced on 24th March last year, flight MH370 tragically ended in the southern Indian Ocean.
Although Najib said the debris had been "conclusively confirmed" to be part of the missing flight, authorities in France stopped short of issuing final confirmation. French prosecutor Serge Mackowiak said in a press conference shortly after the release of Najib's statement that while experts had a "very strong supposition" that the debris belongs to MH370, they will continue to do further analysis Thursday.
Mackowiak explained that the investigators were able to compare technical specifications of the MH370 flight to the object found in Reunion. He said he couldn't specify when the final analysis would be ready.
The search for MH370 has been ongoing since the flight abruptly lost contact with ground crew and shifted course in the early hours of March 8, 2014. The mysterious disappearance of the plane and the 239 people on board prompted an international search that yielded few results.
"The burden and uncertainty faced by the families during this time has been unspeakable," Najib said Wednesday. "It is my hope that this confirmation, however tragic and painful, will at least bring certainty to the families and loved ones of the 239 people onboard MH370."
Malaysia Airlines said in a separate statement that it had informed family members of the passengers and crew.
"It is indeed a major breakthrough for us in resolving the disappearance of MH370," the airline's statement read. "We expect and hope that there would be more objects to be found which would be able to help resolve this mystery."
The large piece of debris was found on July 29 on Reunion, a small French island east of Madagascar.
Authorities and aviation experts quickly determined that the piece appeared to be from a Boeing 777, the same type of aircraft as MH370. On Aug. 3, the Malaysian government confirmed that the object, a wing piece known as a flaperon, belonged to a plane of that type.
Experts from multiple nations gathered Wednesday in Toulouse, France, and began examining the debris. They are studying details like the unique use of paint on the flaperon to determine whether it matches the planes used by Malaysia Airlines.
Analysts also hope the piece can provide clues to the location of MH370, but experts warn that finding the rest of the wreckage will remain extremely difficult.
Malaysian and Australian authorities have said it is possible ocean currents could have carried the debris found on Reunion Island from the current search area in the Indian Ocean.
The search area for the wreckage shifted several times throughout the investigation, finally settling on a patch of sea off the west coast of Australia that was tens of thousands of square miles large. Several promising leads turned out to be unfruitful. Various objects found in the southern Indian Ocean and believed to have been tied to the plane ended up not being part of MH370.
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