UN mulls anti-IS moves as EU eyes tighter border checks post-Paris attacks

20th November 2015, Comments 0 comments

The UN was to vote Friday on a resolution boosting countries' powers to fight the Islamic State group behind the worst terror attacks on French soil, as the EU agreed to rush through reforms to its much-vaunted passport-free zone.

The vote in New York on a text drafted by France came hours after suspected Islamist 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, which is popular with foreigners, added to fears about the global jihadist threat a week after the Paris massacre that left 130 people dead, although it was not immediately clear if there was a link.

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 sporting venue and entertainment spots.

- 'Crucial' Schengen reform -

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 travellers", 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 ringleader Abdelhamid 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.

- Abaaoud in Paris during attacks -

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.

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 which rocked France, 10 months after the jihadist attacks on a satirical magazine and Jewish supermarket.

Prosecutors say Wednesday's raid in Saint-Denis targeted another unit linked to Abaaoud that was preparing to launch further attacks.

Later Friday, the UN Security Council will vote on a resolution that would authorise countries to "take all necessary measures" to fight Islamic State.

The text does not provide any legal basis for military action.

But French diplomats maintain that it will provide important international political support to the anti-IS campaign that has been ramped up since the Paris attacks, which were the deadliest in Europe since the 2004 Madrid train bombings in which 191 died.

The attacks in Paris were launched by three suicide bombers outside the Stade de France where France were playing Germany in an international football match.

Another unit targeted revellers in the trendy eastern district around Canal St Martin and Voltaire.

Then three gunmen stormed into the Bataclan, where American group Eagles of Death Metal were playing, raking the concert-goers with fire.

At least 89 people were killed before police raided the building. Two of the attackers detonated their suicide vests and the third was shot dead.

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© 2015 AFP

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