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    Nov 20, 2015

    ISIS threat: France at risk of bio-terror attack


    FRENCH Prime Minister Manuel Valls warned yesterday that his country risks being attacked with "chemical or biological weapons", while police, after some effort, determined that a gunman killed by them on Wednesday in a Paris suburb was the mastermind behind the bloodbath last week in the French capital.

    In a speech yesterday to Lower House lawmakers debating the extension and enhancement of the state of emergency declared on Saturday, Mr Valls said "nothing can be ruled out" in a terrorist plan, including chemical or biological weapon.

    "We are at war! Not a war that history has accustomed us to. No, it's a new war where terror is the first goal and the first weapon," the Les Echos business daily quoted Mr Valls as saying.

    "This is a war whose front moves constantly and could strike the very heart of our daily life," he told the lawmakers, who later voted to extend the state of emergency by three months.

    As the investigation continues into the attacks in Paris last Friday, which extremist Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has claimed responsibility, Mr Valls also called on the European Union to adopt measures to share airline passenger information, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).

    French police will also be allowed to carry their weapons when they are off duty, said AFP.

    They would be able to use their guns in the event of a terror attack provided they wear a police armband to avoid "any confusion", according to the directive seen by AFP.

    Meanwhile, police confirmed that Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the 28-year-old Belgian militant and ISIS operative suspected to be the mastermind of Friday's attacks that killed 129, had been gunned down in a police raid in an apartment in Paris' Saint-Denis suburb on Wednesday.

    Police originally thought he was in Syria, but their investigations led them to the house and officers stormed the building before dawn, triggering a massive firefight and multiple explosions.

    "Abdelhamid Abaaoud has just been formally identified, after comparing fingerprints, as having been killed during the (police) raid," a police statement said.

    "It was the body we had discovered in the building, riddled with bullets."

    Yesterday, France 2 television, citing unconfirmed police sources, said the cell group holed up in the apartment was supposed to be a fourth team to complement the three groups comprising at least seven gunmen.

    This fourth team might have been planning to strike Charles de Gaulle airport north of Paris and the La Defense business district in the city's west, the sources said.

    A woman who blew herself up when the police struck was established to be Hasna Aitbouhlacen, a cousin of Abaaoud.

    A source told the Le Monde daily that some of the seven arrested in the operation might not have anything to do with the cell.

    It is not known how many occupants in the apartment were killed.

    As details of the shoot-out are still emerging, United States intelligence published a report showing it had warned in May that ISIS was capable of carrying out the kind of large-scale, coordinated attacks seen in Paris.

    The assessment from the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, in coordination with the FBI, specifically refers to Abaaoud as a ringleader of Belgian plotters and warned Europe was more at risk of an attack than the US.

    ISIS, meanwhile, released a new video threatening New York, and specifically Times Square, but the police said there was no "current and specific" threat.