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Paris attacks 'ringleader' killed in police raid

Update: November, 20/2015 - 10:00

PARIS — The Islamic State jihadist suspected of orchestrating the Paris attacks was killed in a major police raid in the French capital, prosecutors confirmed on Thursday, raising troubling questions about a breakdown in intelligence and European border security.

Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian of Moroccan origin linked to a series of extremist plots in Europe over the past two years, died in Wednesday's assault by police on an apartment in northern Paris.

The 28-year-old was thought to have been in Syria – where he had boasted of planning attacks on the West – and his presence in France will renew debate about Europe's border controls and monitoring of fighters returning from the war-torn country.

Confirmation that such a high-profile figure from the Islamic State (IS) group had slipped undetected into France prompted a sharp response from Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, who demanded Europe step up its response to the terror threat.

He said Paris had received "no information" from other European countries about his arrival on the continent.

"It is urgent that Europe wakes up, organises itself and defends itself against the terrorist threat," Cazeneuve told reporters.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls said some of the attackers had taken advantage of Europe's migrant crisis to "slip in" unnoticed and warned the cherished passport-free Schengen zone would be in danger if the bloc did not improve border controls.

Abaaoud was the subject of an international arrest warrant issued by Belgium – where a court had in July sentenced him in absentia to 20 years in prison for recruiting jihadists for Syria.

But it was only three days after the Paris bloodbath that "intelligence services of a country outside Europe indicated they had knowledge of his presence in Greece", Cazeneuve said, without specifying which country.

Abaaoud was also checked by police at Cologne-Bonn airport on his way to Istanbul in early 2014, German officials said, but was allowed to go as they had no indication he should be stopped.

EU interior and justice ministers are to meet in Brussels on Friday where they will tighten checks on all travellers at the external borders of the 26-nation Schengen zone as an emergency measure. — AFP

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