French fighter jets have carried out a series of ‘massive’ air strikes on Raqqa, destroying a key ISIS command centre and a training camp in Syria.
The heavy bombing raid comes just two days after the militant group claimed coordinated attacks in Paris that killed 128 people, the defence ministry said.
‘The raid … including 10 fighter jets, was launched simultaneously from the United Arab Emirates and Jordan. Twenty bombs were dropped,’ the statement said.
The operation, carried out in coordination with U.S. forces, struck a command centre, recruitment centre for jihadists, a munitions depot and a training camp for fighters, it said.
Activists inside Syria have suggested that no civilian casualties have been sustained in the Raqqa bombings.
Water supplies and electricity have reportedly been cut as a result of the air strikes, with activists claiming there has been ‘panic’ inside the city.
The revenge airstrikes in Syria comes as French police broadcast the name and image of Salah Abdeslam, a 26-year-old born in Brussels, across Europe, warning that he is very dangerous. ‘Do not intervene yourself,’ his warrant says.
Salah Abdeslam is wanted in connection with the deadly Paris attacks on Friday, in which it is believed he played a key part in planning the operations.
His brother, Ibrahim, was one of the seven suicide bombers in the devastating terror attacks. Salah is thought to be on the run and was briefly stopped by French police near the Belgian border.
Four French officials acknowledged that police had Abdeslam in their grasp, when they stopped a car carrying him and two other men near the Belgian border early today.
By then, hours had passed since authorities identified Abdeslam as the renter of a Volkswagen Polo that carried hostage takers to the Paris theater where so many were killed.
Three French police officials and a top French security official confirmed that officers let Abdeslam go after checking his ID.
They spoke on condition of anonymity, lacking authorization to publicly disclose such details.
Clues about the extent of the terror plot have emerged from Baghdad, where senior Iraqi officials told the AP that France and other countries had been warned on Thursday of an imminent attack.
An Iraqi intelligence dispatch warned that Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had ordered his followers to immediately launch gun and bomb attacks and take hostages inside the countries of the coalition fighting them in Iraq and Syria.
The Iraqi dispatch, which was obtained by the AP, provided no details on when or where the attack would take place, and a senior French security official told the AP that French intelligence gets these kinds of warnings ‘all the time’ and ‘every day.’
However, Iraqi intelligence officials told the AP that they also warned France about specific details: Among them, that the attackers were trained for this operation and sent back to France from Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de-facto capital.
The officials also said that 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.
Last night French intelligence officials were quizzing a man suspected of being a quartermaster to the Paris murder gang.
The suspect – identified only as ‘Vlatko V’, 51 – had driven 750 miles from Montenegro through Croatia, Slovenia and Austria, before he was stopped on an autobahn in Bavaria last Thursday.
Officers discovered eight loaded AK-47 assault rifles in secret compartments of his Volkswagen Golf.
Three handguns, two hand grenades, fuses, detonators and almost half a pound of TNT completed the mini arsenal.
Also found in the vehicle were several Parisian telephone numbers and other addresses.
The man, who is Muslim according to unconfirmed reports, has no apparent previous criminal record or specific links to radical Islamists.
But police believe he is linked to organised crime groups in Montenegro that may have agreed to supply weaponry to jihadi groups.
A German intelligence source said police officers blundered by not reporting the seizure to anti-terror specialists in Berlin, who may have alerted France.
It also emerged that French security police arrested a man in August on suspicion of plotting a terror attack on a concert venue.
The man was held just two months after he returned from a six-day trip to Raqqa, Syria.
According to reports, the suspect confessed that he was ordered by an IS leader to return to Europe or France to carry out an atrocity and suggested a busy concert hall as an ideal target.
The apparent intelligence failures come amid an ongoing inquiry into the fatal errors by the security services in the lead up to the Charlie Hebdo murders in Paris in January.
Photo credit: Nidal/AFP