France has stepped up its attack on Islamic State (IS) strongholds in Syria and as it continued to bomb IS targets for the second straight day.
With the help of a US led coalition, French warplanes carried out fresh overnight raids on Monday in Raqqa in northern Syria.
“For the second time in 24 hours the French military conducted an air raid against Daesh in Raqqa in Syria,” said a French Defence Ministry statement.
“Ten Rafale and Mirage 2000 fighters carried out the raid at 0030 GMT, dropping 16 bombs…Conducted in coordination with US forces, the raid was aimed at sites identified during reconnaissance missions previously carried out by France,” the statement said.
France is set to further intensify its operations against the jihadists in Syria. Therefore, the US and France have also decided to increase their exchange of intelligence on potential targets.
On Monday, French President Francois Hollande again vowed to destroy the IS “without mercy”. He promised new anti-terror measures at home and decided to further intensify the bombing in Syria.
“Friday’s “acts of war… were decided and planned in Syria, prepared and organised in Belgium (and) perpetrated on our soil with French complicity,” said Hollande while addressing a special meeting of both houses of Parliament in Versailles.
“The need to destroy Daesh (IS) … concerns the entire international community,” the President told all his lawmakers.
Hollande announced that the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle would be deployed to the eastern Mediterranean to “triple our (France’s) capacity to take action” against IS in Syria.
“We will continue the strikes in the weeks to come … There will be no respite and no truce,” Hollande said while he urged for a global fightback to crush the IS and said he would hold talks with US and Russia on a new offensive against the jihadis.
On the domestic front, Hollande called for an extension of the state of emergency by three months and announced 8,500 new police and judicial jobs to help counter terrorism.
Stepping up the investigation in Paris, French police used its emergency powers to conduct 128 overnight raids and arrested 23 people in connection with the terror attacks. The police also seized 31 weapons including a rocket launcher in the raids, announced French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve. Meanwhile, the manhunt for Belgian national Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who is believed to be the mastermind, also continues.
France has issued an arrest warrant against 26-year-old Salah Abdeslam, who was identified as the alleged driver of a rental car that delivered the attackers to the rock concert hall, in which 89 victims died. The car, rented by Abdeslam, was later found abandoned on Paris’ east side with several assault rifles and clips of ammunition. Interestingly, the French border police had stopped Abdeslam on Saturday but unwittingly allowed him to travel on to Belgium, unaware of the arrest warrant issued.
On Friday, France witnessed its worst-ever terror strike that killed close to 130 people. IS terrorists carried out coordinated attacks across 7 locations in Paris.
(With inputs from agencies)