Pressure Mounts On Russia Over Civilian Deaths In Syria

Russia-putinPressure is increasing on Russia over deaths of civilians in Syria, with France and the US urging greater caution.

French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, and US Secretary of State, John Kerry, said civilians were dying in Russian air strikes.

But Russian Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, said there was “no evidence of our bombing civilians, even though everyone is accusing us of this”.

The BBC quoted one observers’ group as saying that at least 1,015 civilians have been killed in Russian air strikes.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said late last month that close to a quarter of those killed were under the age of 18.

Russia, an ally of Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, has consistently denied hitting civilian targets and insists it is battling terrorists.

Mr Valls said his government “respects Russia and Russia’s interests” but “that to re-discover the path to peace, to discussion, the Russian bombing of civilians has to stop”.

Mr Kerry again accused Russia of using so-called ‘dumb bombs’ in Syria that do not hit precise targets. Last week, he said women and children were being killed “in large numbers” by Russian raids.

Mr Medvedev said Russia was “not trying to achieve some secret goals in Syria”, adding that “we are trying to protect our national interests”.

Their comments were made at a security conference in Munich, days after world powers agreed a deal to push for a cessation of hostilities in Syria within a week.

France Votes In First Election Since Paris Attacks

France electionFrance is set to vote in the first round of regional elections, widely seen as a test of public support for the government’s response to the attacks on November 13.

About 44 million people are eligible to vote in the first poll since the Paris attacks, which killed 130 people.

The far-right National Front (FN) is hoping to make gains, while the centre-right Les Republicains party, led by former President Nicolas Sarkozy, is expected to win a majority of regions.

The FN leader, Marine Le Pen, is likely to win in the northern region, while her niece, Marion Marechal-Le Pen, is a leading contender in the southern region of Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur.

Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, on Thursday made an “appeal to patriotism” in an effort to rally the socialist votes.

The second round is on December 13.

Paris Attacks: France Calls On EU To ‘Wake Up’ To Threat

Paris Attacks: France Calls On EU To 'Wake Up' To Threatparis policeThe French Interior Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, says European countries must ‘wake up’ to terror threats.

He spoke after it emerged that the suspected Belgian ringleader of the attacks had entered France undetected.

Belgian Prime Minister, Charles Michel, has, however, defended Belgium’s security services amid claims the attacks were organised there.

The defence came as EU Interior Ministers are due to hold emergency talks.

The meeting in Brussels is expected to tighten checks at the external borders of the EU’s passport-free Schengen area.

French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, said that the EU’s cherished passport-free Schengen zone would be in danger if the bloc did not improve border controls, after it emerged the ringleader of the Paris attacks had managed to enter Europe unnoticed.

It was confirmed on Thursday that Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian of Moroccan origin linked to a series of extremist plots in Europe over the past two years, had died in a police raid on an apartment in northern Paris on Wednesday.

As debate raged about the failings that had let Abaaoud slip through the net, Valls urged France’s neighbours to “play their role properly”, saying the whole Schengen system would be called into question if Europe does not take responsibility for its borders.

The Schengen system allows passport-free travel between 26 countries, but it has come under severe strain this year, as the continent struggles with its biggest migration crisis since World War II.

Paris Attacks: Abdelhamid Abaaoud ‘Died In Saint Denis Raid’ – Prosecutor

Paris Attack updateParis prosecutor says the suspected ringleader of the Paris attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, has been identified as one of those killed in a raid in Saint Denis.

His body was found riddled with bullets and shrapnel in an apartment in the northern Paris suburb on Wednesday.

The 27-year-old Belgian national, was identified from his fingerprints.

The fate of Abdelhamid Abaaoud was earlier unknown after Paris prosecutor, Francois Molins, revealed that the suspect was not among the eight people arrested during the raid in the Paris suburb of Saint Denis.

President Francois Hollande declared the state of emergency for 12 days, after gunmen and suicide bombers targeted a concert hall, cafes and the Stade de France on Friday last week.

The attack claimed a total of 129 lives, leaving many others in critical conditions.

Meanwhile, French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, has said that the country could face chemical or biological attack from terror groups.

France Mobilises 115,000 Personnel To Secure Citizens

french gunmenFrance has mobilised 115,000 security personnel over the whole of its territory to insure the protection of citizens and forestall further attacks.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said police gendarmes and military have been deployed days after Islamist militants attacked Paris.

He vowed to boost funding for police equipment, which he said had fallen by 17% in 2007-12.

The interior minister added that 128 raids on suspected Islamist militants had been carried out overnight on Monday to Tuesday.

More than 160 raids were made earlier on Monday, with 23 people arrested and dozens of weapons seized.

“Psychopathic Monsters”

After the French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, warned that new terror attacks were being planned in France and other European countries, Belgium’s government raised its terror threat level because of the failure so far to arrest one of the suspects, Brussels-born Salah Abdeslam, causing Tuesday’s football match between the national team and Spain to be cancelled.

There has been a huge manhunt for Abdeslam since Monday.

The measures came as US Secretary of State, John Kerry, visited Paris.

Speaking on Monday outside the US embassy, he described IS as “psychopathic monsters”.

He called France America’s oldest friend and first ally, and said the only response to the attacks must be a fierce sense of solidarity.

French aircraft have, however, started retaliatory attacks in Raqqa, the stronghold of the Islamic State group in Syria, which claimed responsibility for Friday’s attacks.

Mr Valls said that France was dealing with a “terrorist army”, rather than a single terrorist group.

France PM Warns Of More Attacks To Come

paris attacksFrench Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, has warned that new terror attacks are being planned in France and other European countries.

He also said that Friday’s attacks by Islamist militants in Paris were planned and organised from Syria.

A total of 129 people died in the attacks on bars and restaurants, a concert hall and the Stade de France while 352 others were injured. According to the persecutor, 99 others are in critical condition.

France is to hold a nationwide minute of silence at midday local time for the victims, the BBC reported.

A huge manhunt is under way for surviving members and accomplices of the Islamist group that carried out the attack.

Meanwhile, two more attackers have been named, as well as the five already identified.

Conducting Raids

Police have named Brussels-born Salah Abdeslam, 26, as a key suspect. He was reportedly stopped by officers in the wake of the attacks – but then let go.

Meanwhile, French aircraft have started retaliatory attacks in Raqqa, the stronghold of the Islamic State group in Syria, which claimed responsibility for Friday’s attacks.

Mr Valls said that France was dealing with a “terrorist army”, rather than a single terrorist group.

“We know that operations were being prepared and are still being prepared, not only against France but other European countries too,” Mr Valls said.

Security forces are conducting raids across France and Belgium.

French Interior Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, said that 168 raids have been conducted in eight different locations, with arms and cash retrieved.

Authorities said they sieized a rocket launcher in the city of Lyon in one of the raids.

Over 40 Pensioners Died In French Bus Crash

france pensioners bus crashMore than 40 pensioners on an excursion have been killed after their bus crashed with a truck on a country road in south-western France.

The collision happened in the Gironde wine region, east of Bordeaux, not long after the bus had set off from a nearby town.

The French President, Francois Hollande, said he had been “plunged into sadness by the tragedy”.

“This is the worst French road disaster since 1982, when 52 people died”, he said.

At least 41 passengers on the bus and the driver of the lorry died in the blaze. The French Government said 42 people had died and nine people were injured, four seriously.

A large number of those on board were reported to have been members of an elderly people’s association in the nearby town of Petit-Palais-et-Cornemps.

More than 60 firefighters attended the scene. The wounded were airlifted to hospital.

The cause of the crash is not yet clear. One local resident told Sud Ouest newspaper the scene of the crash was a notorious danger spot.

Mr Hollande, who is on a visit to Athens, promised a full investigation.

Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, along with the Interior and Transport Ministers are expected to go to the scene.

Marie Fulbert, a council official from the nearby town of Libourne, said they were still waiting for news of who was on the bus and said they had taken “a lot of calls from friends and family”.

 

11 Injured As Driver Rams Vehicle Into Pedestrians In Dijon, France

FranceA driver shouting the Islamic phrase “God is great” (Allahu Akbar) has run down pedestrians in Dijon, France, injuring 11, two seriously, French media say.

He was arrested after targeting pedestrians in five different parts of the city in the space of half an hour.

He is said to be “apparently imbalanced” and to have spent time in a psychiatric hospital.

The lives of the two people seriously injured in Dijon are not said to be in danger.

Witnesses told police that the driver, aged around 40, had also said he was “acting for the children of Palestine”, an unnamed source close to the investigation told AFP news agency.

The incident came a day after a man stabbed three police officers in central France while allegedly calling out the same phrase.

French police shot dead a man on Saturday after he attacked them with a knife, also shouting “God is great”.

The stabbing attack is being investigated by French counter-terrorism authorities.

French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, acknowledged those affected by the violence.

“Support for the gravely injured and shocked police officers in Tours,” he wrote on Twitter. “Those who attack them will have to face up to the severity of the state.”

Regarding Dijon, he voiced “solidarity” with the victims and support for their families.