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Wednesday, February 1st, 2023

France readies itself for war on ISIS

President Francois Hollande says France will step up the battle against Islamic State in Syria.

Ready to fight … French President Francois Hollande arrives for an exceptional joint gathering of Parliament in Versailles. Picture: AFP/Michel Euler

President Francois Hollande made the declaration in a rare joint sitting of both houses of parliament yesterday, vowing the nation’s military would destroy ISIS for the 129 people it killed.

His words were soon after backed with action, as France launched fresh air raids on the Syrian city of Raqqa, having first bombarded the Islamic State bastion on Monday.

The new strikes came as police raided more properties across the country seizing weapons including a rocket launcher and arresting dozens of people.

“The acts committed on Friday evening in Paris and near the national stadium are acts of war. It is an aggression against our country, against its values, against its youth, against its way of life.”

Moments later he announced he would be tabling a bill to extend state of emergency powers as well as change the constitution to strip citizens of citizenship for threatening the nation’s interests and or partaking in terrorism.

It was a defiant and genuinely angry Mr Hollande who vowed to destroy ISIS and said he would be meeting his US and Russian counterparts Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin in coming days to craft a joint strike force. US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Paris last night to set up the talks.

Stern … French President Francois Hollande delivers a moving speech during a joint gathering of both houses of parliament. Picture: Thierry Chesnot/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Mr Hollande added: “The terrorists believe that free people who would be impressed by horror! No such thing. The French Republic has overcome other obstacles and is still here, lively. Our democracy triumphed over far more dangerous opponents than these cowards.”

Almost immediately he deployed the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier to the Middle East to support the military campaign against ISIS.

Then late yesterday, the defence ministry said warplanes had destroyed a command centre and training centre.

“For the second time in 24 hours the French military conducted an air raid against Daesh in Raqa in Syria,” it said in a statement, using another name for the jihadist group.

As he spoke there were also raids across the country, almost 170 by day’s end and 125 people arrested. Across the border in Belgium more than 100 people were detained.

Those being interrogated include family and associates of the French and Belgian nationals involved in the horror.

The French prosecutors office said yesterday police would continue to knock on doors today as they piece together the lead up to the terror plot and hunt what some officials say could be another half dozen extremists looking to carry out mass acts of violence.

Mourning … Citizens react in front of the morgue in Paris. Picture: AP/Francois MoriSource:AP

All the actions were backed by special police laws that dispense with direct probable cause to conduct raids. One raid in Lyon revealed a large cache of weapons including a rocket launcher and AK-47s. In all 31 weapons have so far been seized.

At least six of the eight terrorists behind the Paris attacks have been identified but a further suspect Saleh Abdeslam, 26, has so far eluded capture.

Some intelligence has pointed to the terror cell related to the Paris plot as involving 24 people, 19 attackers and or suicide bombers and five tasked with logistics and planning.

Despite this, Parisians yesterday returned to work and reopened their shops and defied state of emergency protocols that ban public gatherings to do just that at the Place de la Republique in central Paris. Barriers about Bataclan theatre, the scene of carnage where at least 89 people were killed, were also removed late yesterday evening to allow traffic to flow again.

A large banner on the concert hall was unveiled — “La Liberte est un Monument Indestructible”.