UN, EU move to toughen anti-IS fight after Paris attacks
The UN Security Council on Friday unanimously backed a resolution aimed at broadening the fight against the Islamic State group as Europe agreed to tighten border checks, a week after the Paris attacks.
The vote in New York on the text drafted by France came hours after gunmen stormed a luxury hotel in Mali's capital Bamako, taking dozens of people hostage that ended around nine hours later with at least 27 dead.
The attack on the luxury Radisson Blu hotel added to fears about the global jihadist threat a week after the Paris massacre that left 130 people dead, although there was no immediate confirmation of a link with IS.
Malian special forces, backed by French and US operatives, carried out a dramatic floor-by-floor rescue of the hostages, killing three gunmen, according to security sources.
As the siege was unfolding, the EU agreed to rush through reforms to the passport-free Schengen zone to address growing concerns about border security in the wake of last week's attacks on a Paris soccer stadium, concert hall, bars and restaurants.
- All necessary measures -
At the United Nations, Russia joined Western powers in backing the French-drafted text that authorizes countries to "take all necessary measures" to fight IS and other extremist groups linked to Al-Qaeda.
French President Francois Hollande welcomed the adoption of the resolution, saying it will "contribute to mobilizing nations to eliminate Daesh."
The text does not provide any legal basis for military action and does not invoke Chapter Seven of the UN charter that authorizes the use of force.
But French diplomats maintain that it will provide important international political support to the anti-IS campaign that has been ramped up since the attacks in Paris.
Describing IS as a "global and unprecedented threat to international peace and security," the resolution calls for sanctions and urges countries to step up efforts to cut off the flow of foreign fighters to Iraq and Syria.
The 28-year-old ringleader of the Paris attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian of Moroccan origin, is believed to have traveled to Syria to join IS and be trained as an operative in Europe.
- Border checks -
In Brussels, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said he and his EU counterparts agreed in crisis talks to "immediately" tighten checks on points of entry to the 26-country Schengen area.
Hailing a "crucial change," Cazeneuve said the European Commission would present plans to introduce "obligatory checks at all external borders for all travelers," including EU citizens, by the year's end.
Previously, only non-EU nationals had their details checked against a database for terrorism and crime when they enter the Schengen area.
The reforms aim to defuse the furore unleashed by revelations that two of the attackers, including Abaaoud were able to slip back into Europe from Syria despite being the subject of international arrest warrants.
Abaaoud, a Belgian national, was killed in a ferocious police onslaught Wednesday on an apartment building in the Saint-Denis suburb of Paris, where the attacks began on November 13 with three explosions outside the Stade de France stadium.
Two other people also died in the raid, including a woman reported to be Abaaoud's cousin, 26-year-old Hasna Aitboulahcen.
Contrary to initial reports based on information from prosecutors, she did not blow herself up, a police source said Friday, adding that the suicide bomber was instead thought to have been a second man.
- One suspect still on the run -
The apartment block in the northern Paris district of Saint-Denis, near the Stade de France national stadium, was severely damaged as elite RAID police rained 5,000 rounds of ammunition on it and lobbed in grenades after a tipoff that Abaaoud was there.
Investigators revealed Friday that he was caught on camera at a metro station in the east of the capital on the night of the attacks, as the massacre at Bataclan concert hall was underway.
It is believed he might have been among the three assailants who opened fire from a car on bars and restaurants, killing dozens of people, minutes before the Bataclan attack.
One of the suspected attackers in the bars and restaurants attacks, Salah Abdeslam, 26, is still on the run. His brother, Brahim Abdeslam, blew himself up at a bar, but did not kill anyone else.
In all, seven attackers are known to have died on the night of the bloodshed that rocked France, 10 months after the jihadist attacks on a satirical magazine and Jewish supermarket.
© 2015 AFP