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Russia, France, and UK Bomb Islamic State Targets, as Manhunt Continues for Paris Attackers

France has invoked the European Union's mutual assistance clause for the first time, which obliges member states to take action if another state is the victim of armed aggression on its territory.

by Reuters and VICE News
Nov 17 2015, 11:45am

Foto di Sebastien Dupont/EPA

France and Russia launched fresh airstrikes on the Islamic State (IS) stronghold of Raqqa in northern Syria on Tuesday, as police made 128 overnight raids across France in the hunt for accomplices to Friday's Paris attacks claimed by the Islamist group.

In northern Iraq, British RAF Tornado fighter bombers attacked Islamic State militants targeting Kurdish forces, killing more than 30 people, the Ministry of Defence said.

French warplanes targeted a command centre and a recruitment centre for jihadists in Raqqa in the second consecutive night of strikes ordered by President Francois Hollande, a military command spokesman told Reuters.

The strike involved 10 fighter jets launched from the United Arab Emirates and Jordan. French defense officials said the United States had stepped up intelligence sharing, enabling Paris to identify more specific targets.

Russia also launched new strikes on Raqqa. "At this moment, the Russians are in the process of strongly hitting the city of Raqqa, which is proof that they too are becoming conscious [of the threat from Islamic State]," a senior French government source said.

The action followed President Vladimir Putin's announcement that Moscow would intensify air strikes in Syria after Russia's Federal Security Service confirmed that a bomb caused the crash of a Russian tourist airliner over Egypt's Sinai peninsula in October.

IS claimed responsibility for the attack on the Russian airplane as well as last Friday's attacks on restaurants, a concert hall and a sports stadium in Paris that killed more than 130 people.

Related: Paris Attacks Inspire Backhanded Messages of 'Sympathy' Abroad

The reports of new strikes come as France invoked the European Union's mutual assistance clause for the first time on Tuesday, which states member states are obliged to use "all the means in their power" to help another member state if it is the victim of armed aggression on its territory. France asked its partners for military help and other aid in missions in the Middle East and Africa after the Paris attacks, Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.

He said all 28 EU member states had unanimously accepted France's formal call for "aid and assistance" under the EU treaty and he expected all to help quickly in various regions.

"This is firstly a political act," Le Drian said of the decision to invoke Article 42.7 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty.

"Beyond that, how is this going to work? It may be by cooperating with French interventions in Syria, in Iraq, it may be in support of France in other operations," he told a news conference. 

Related: Everything We Know So Far About the Paris Attacks (Day 3)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also expressed his desire to help, telling French President Francois Hollande in a phone call on Tuesday that it is of vital importance to fight IS with "all our might." On Monday, Paris called for a grand coalition to destroy the group.

"President Rouhani ... insisted on the vital importance of the fight against Daesch (Islamic State) and terrorism with all our might," a French presidential source said after a call between the two presidents.

Both presidents apparently insisted on the importance of the peace talks currently taking place in Vienna to resolve the conflict in Syria, the source said.

The French investigation into Friday's attacks in Paris is also continuing, with police sources saying they have discovered a car — a black Renault Clio — that may have been used by the attackers.

The car was found in Albert Kahn Square in the 18th district of the city.

French police have found a black Renault Clio they think may have been used by the Paris attackers. Photo by VICE News/Etienne Rouillon

Police were examining the car stationed in this cosmopolitan neighborhood on Tuesday morning. Some residents were intrigued by the massive police presence in the area, and many were worried. "So, it means that the terrorists came here?" one young man, who had lived in the 18th district all his life, asked VICE News.

After a while, the car was taken away for further examination. According to police sources, quoted by newspaper Le Parisien, "This car was seen on the A1 highway, during what could have been a preparatory journey between Paris and Belgium."

One top suspect in the investigation, Belgian-born Frenchman Salah Abdeslam, 26, remains at large after escaping back to Belgium early on Saturday and eluding a police dragnet in the Brussels neighbourhood of Molenbeek, where he lived with his two brothers.

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