AP (Jan 15) — France’s prime minister demanded tougher anti-terrorism measures Tuesday after deadly attacks that some call this country’s Sept. 11 — and that may already be leading to a crackdown on liberties in exchange for greater security.
Police told The Associated Press that the weapons used came from abroad, as authorities in several countries searched for possible accomplices and the sources of financing for last week’s attacks on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, a kosher market and police. A new suspect was identified in Bulgaria.
“We must not lower our guard, at any time,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls told Parliament, adding that “serious and very high risks remain.”
Lawmakers in the often argumentative chamber lined up overwhelmingly behind the government, giving repeated standing ovations to Valls’ rousing, indignant address — and then voted 488-1 to extend French airstrikes against Islamic State extremists in Iraq.
“France is at war against terrorism, jihadism, and radical Islamism,” Valls declared. “France is not at war against Islam.”
He called for increased surveillance of imprisoned radicals and told the interior minister to quickly come up with new security proposals.
French police say as many as six members of the terrorist cell that carried out the Paris attacks may still be at large, including a man seen driving a car registered to the widow of one of the gunmen. The country has deployed 10,000 troops to protect sensitive sites, including Jewish schools and synagogues, mosques and travel hubs.
Several people are being sought in connection with the “substantial” financing of the three gunmen behind the terror campaign, said Christophe Crepin, a French police union official. The gunmen’s weapons stockpile came from abroad, and the size of it, plus the military sophistication of the attacks, indicated an organized terror network, he added.
“This cell did not include just those three. We think with all seriousness that they had accomplices, because of the weaponry, the logistics and the costs of it,” Crepin said. “These are heavy weapons. When I talk about things like a rocket launcher — it’s not like buying a baguette on the corner. It’s for targeted acts.”
Speaking to legislators in London, the head of the European police agency Europol, Rob Wainwright, said that 3,000 to 5,000 European nationals have gone to fight in the Mideast, calling it a “startling figure” and “the most serious threat Europe has faced since 9/11.”