Europe on edge with at least one Paris attacker on the run

17th November 2015, Comments 0 comments

Europe was on high alert Tuesday with at least one of the Paris attackers on the run, as France and Russia formed an unusual alliance against the Islamic State jihadists who have claimed the worst attacks in French history.

In a sign of the nervousness after Friday's carnage in Paris, a football match between Germany and the Netherlands -- which German Chancellor Angela Merkel was due to attend -- was cancelled and the crowd evacuated after police acted on a "serious" bomb threat.

The friendly match in the northern German city of Hanover had been intended as a "symbol of freedom" after the shooting spree and suicide bombings in Paris, which left at least 129 people dead.

"We received a serious indication that a bomb attack was planned inside the stadium tonight," Hanover police chief Volker Kluwe told ARD.

In Paris, video footage confirmed that a ninth man took part in the attacks -- meaning a second assailant could still be on the run alongside fugitive Salah Abdeslam, unless the man is one of two suspected accomplices being held in Belgium.

Sources close to the investigation said a third man is now believed to have been in the black Seat car used by Abdeslam and his brother Brahim as they gunned down people at bars and restaurants in central Paris.

As police in both France and Belgium stepped up the hunt for 26-year-old Salah Abdeslam on Tuesday, French and Russian jets pounded IS targets in the group's Syrian stronghold of Raqa for a third consecutive day.

France and Russia have vowed merciless retaliation for the Paris attacks and last month's bombing of a Russian airliner, also claimed by IS, which have galvanised international resolve to destroy the jihadists and end the more than four-year Syrian war.

"It's necessary to establish direct contact with the French and work with them as allies," Russian President Vladimir Putin said as France prepared to send an aircraft carrier to the eastern Mediterranean.

French President Francois Hollande will meet Putin in Moscow on November 26, two days after seeing US President Barack Obama in Washington.

- 'Screw them, we have champagne' -

In grieving France, police racked up arrests and seized weapons as they searched for clues after the wave of coordinated attacks by gunmen and suicide bombers on a stadium, bars and restaurants, and a concert venue that have shaken the country to its core.

Police issued the photograph of one of the three men who blew themselves up outside the Stade de France. Investigators have established that the man entered Europe through Greece as hundreds of thousands of refugees have done this year.

He was found with a Syrian passport near his body, but investigators have not confirmed that he was the man in the document and are appealing for anyone who recognises him to come forward.

Satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, itself attacked by jihadist gunmen in January, unveiled a tribute cover for the Paris victims showing a dancing reveller with bottle and glass in hand, and champagne pouring out of holes in his body.

"They have weapons," the caption reads, adding: "Screw them, we have champagne."

In the southwestern city of Toulouse, which was targeted in a 2012 attack by a heavily armed jihadist, about 10,000 people gathered for a candlelit vigil.

In Wembley Stadium in London, fans joined together for an emotional rendition of the French national anthem 'La Marseillaise' before a football match between France and England.

- French, Russian rapprochement -

As it ramped up its response to the attack, France invoked a previously unused European Union article to ask member states for help in its mission to fight back against IS. Its call received unanimous backing from Brussels.

But France also appears to be forging an unexpected alliance with Russia after both countries were targeted by deadly IS attacks.

On Tuesday, Russia finally confirmed that the Russian passenger jet that crashed in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula last month, killing 224 people, had been brought down by a bomb in an attack claimed by IS.

Following a phone call between Putin and Hollande, the Kremlin said they had "agreed to assure closer contact and coordination between the military and security service agencies of the two countries in actions against terrorist groups... in Syria".

Paris and Moscow have been at loggerheads over Russia's role in the Ukraine conflict, as well over the fate of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, but have now become strange bedfellows.

The alliance comes as international players meet to discuss ways of ending the Syrian war which has seen millions going into exile, triggered Europe's worst migrant crisis since World War II and spurred the rise of IS.

On a solidarity visit to Paris, US Secretary of State John Kerry said a "big transition" in Syria was probably only weeks away after Iran, Russia and Saudi Arabia reached agreement at the weekend on a path towards elections in the war-torn country.

But regime and opposition representatives have yet to sit down together and there is little agreement on the role of Assad in any transition.

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© 2015 AFP

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