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France Votes to Extend State of Emergency as Belgian Police Carry Out Raids

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel has also pledged a security crackdown and an extra $427 million to fight Islamist violence while rejecting criticism of his country's security forces.

by Reuters and VICE News
Nov 19 2015, 10:40am

Imagen por Stephanie Lecocq/EPA

The French National Assembly has voted to extend the state of emergency for three months following Friday's massacre in Paris by militant Islamists in which 129 people were killed.

The government initially imposed the state of emergency on Saturday, giving police extended powers to search and detain suspects.

The French Senate is expected to debate and approve the extension on Friday, after which it can go into effect. 

The result of the vote came as Belgian authorities were carrying out six raids in Brussels for suspects in last week's Paris attacks. 

The Associated Press reported that Bilal Hadfi, the suicide bomber who struck near the Stade de France on Friday night, was a main target of the operation and a Belgian official said that the raids were centering on "his entourage"

Local broadcaster RTBF reported that operations were being carried out in Jette and Molenbeek in the Brussels region.

The Brussels district of Molenbeek has been at the center of investigations into last week's attacks in the French capital that killed at least 129 people after it emerged that at least two of the attackers had been living there. A government source also confirmed the raids to Reuters.

Prosecutors said that one person was detained in another raid in the Laeken area of northern Brussels which was related to the Paris attacks.

Related: These Are the Scars From the Paris Attacks That You Can't See

Speaking on Thursday, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel pledged a security crackdown and an extra 400 million euros ($427 million) to fight Islamist violence, while rejecting criticism of Belgium's security services in the wake of the Paris attacks.

In a speech to parliament, Michel said his government would introduce laws to jail jihadists returning from Syria, ban hate preachers and close down unregistered places of worship in response to last week's attacks.

The Belgian Federal Police released a new video today appealing for information on Salah Abdeslam, one of the suspects behind the deadly November 13 attacks in Paris.

French President Francois Hollande said the coordinated suicide bombings and shootings that killed at least 129 people had been planned in Belgium. French media quoted an intelligence source as saying: "The Belgians just aren't up to it."

Michel stopped short of acknowledging the attacks had been organized from Belgium but blamed "Franco-Belgian cells."

"Also I don't accept the criticism seeking to disparage our security services, who do a difficult and tough job," he said.

Related: In Photos: On the Scene of Deadly Paris Raid in Saint-Denis

The prime minister said Belgium would amend laws to convict or expel hate preachers, make it impossible to buy pre-paid mobile phone cards anonymously and enable police to carry out home searches at any time of the day or night.

Meanwhile, French police are also still working to identify whether the man killed in the Saint-Denis raid on Wednesday was Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the man alleged to have "masterminded" the attacks.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that this was proving difficult as the body had been "so ripped apart."

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