France drop 20 bombs on ISIS in Syria

Author: CBS News/ AP
Published: Updated:
French Ministry of Defense / MGN

PARIS- Two days after the deadly terror attacks in Paris that left at least 129 people dead and 352 injured, a French defense official says they have conducted “massive” airstrikes that have destroyed two jihadi sites in the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group’s de facto capital in Syria.

Twelve aircraft including 10 fighter jets dropped a total of 20 bombs in the biggest air strikes since France extended its bombing campaign against the extremist group to Syria in September, a Defense Ministry statement said. The jets launched from sites in Jordan and the Persian Gulf, in coordination with U.S. forces.

CBS News’ David Martin reports that by the U.S. count, there were seven strikes and 30 explosions in Sunday’s strikes in Raqqa. On Monday, the French will release video of the Raqqa strikes.

Martin also reports that U.S. and French officials will announce on Monday a new intelligence sharing agreement which gives France access to more sensitive U.S. intelligence to be used in the fight against ISIS. Currently, such intelligence is only shared among the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. France will join that group.

The French defense official said on Sunday the airstrikes have destroyed a jihadi training camp and a munitions dump.

France has been in an official state of mourning since the attacks, with the Eiffel Tower going dark and President Francois Hollande vowing that France would wage “merciless” war on ISIS, which claimed responsibility for the mayhem, as investigators raced to track down their accomplices and uncovered possible links to Belgium, Germany and Syria.

Iraqi intelligence officials claimed Sunday the attacks were carried out after some of the terrorists trained in Syria with ISIS and later met up with a sleeper cell in Europe. Additionally, a passport found at the scene of the attacks at the soccer stadium had links to the migrant wave of refugees fleeing the Syria crisis.

While their exact planning and motivations are still being sorted out, a portrait of the terrorists themselves is emerging, reports CBS News’ Khaled Wassef.

There is currently a manhunt seeking Salah Abdesslam, 26, a brother of one of the known suicide bombers who is believed to be the only survivor of the attack. Salah Abdesslam rented the black car which was used in the attack on the Bataclan, and returned to Belgium on Saturday. He was born in Brussels, and Belgian Police launched an International Warrant for his arrest. French police published his picture and issued a call to witnesses who may have seen the suspect, while warning citizens to avoid any direct contact with him.

On Sunday, four French officials told the Associated Press that police questioned and freed Salah Abdesslam just hours after the Paris attacks. Details on the stop have not yet been provided.

Three of the seven killed attackers are believed to be French, two are believed to be Belgians,according to French and Belgian officials.

Senior Iraqi intelligence officials warned members of the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS of imminent assaults by the militant organization just one day before last week’s deadly attacks in Paris killed 129 people, The Associated Press has learned.

Iraqi intelligence sent a dispatch saying the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had ordered an attack on coalition countries fighting against them in Iraq and Syria, as well as on Iran and Russia, through bombings or other attacks in the days ahead.

The dispatch said the Iraqis had no specific details on when or where the attack would take place, and a senior French security official told the AP that French intelligence gets this kind of communication “all the time” and “every day.” Without commenting specifically on the Iraqi warning, a senior U.S. intelligence official said he was not aware of any threat information sent to Western governments that was specific enough to have thwarted the Paris attacks.

Officials from the U.S., French and other Western governments have expressed worries for months about Islamic State-inspired attacks by militants who fought in Syria, the official noted.

In recent weeks, the sense of danger had spiked. Six senior Iraqi officials confirmed the information in the dispatch, a copy of which was obtained by the AP, and four of these intelligence officials said they also warned France specifically of a potential attack.

Two officials told the AP that France was warned beforehand of details that French authorities have yet to make public.

“We have recovered information from our direct sources in the Islamic State terrorist organization about the orders issued by terrorist ‘Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’ directing all members of the organization to implement an international attack that includes all coalition countries, in addition to Iran and the Russian Federation, through bombings or assassinations or hostage taking in the coming days. We do not have information on the date and place for implementing these terrorist operations at this time,” the Iraqi dispatch read in part.

Among the other warnings cited by Iraqi officials: that the Paris attacks appear to have been planned in Raqqa, Syria, where the attackers were trained specifically for this operation and with the intention of sending them to France.

The officials also said a sleeper cell in France then met with the attackers after their training and helped them to execute the plan.

There were 24 people involved in the operation, they said: 19 attackers and five others in charge of logistics and planning.

The officials all spoke anonymously because they are not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

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