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Ringleader behind Paris terror attacks killed in raid, officials say

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Abdelhamid Abaaoud

PARIS, France (Nov. 19, 2015) — Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected ringleader in last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris, has been killed, the Paris prosecutor’s office said Thursday.

He was at the center of a major raid north of Paris Wednesday. Another key suspect linked to Friday’s atrocities by ISIS attackers in the French capital is still at large. Belgian authorities are conducting fresh raids around Brussels.

ISIS, meanwhile, is continuing to fuel alarm and outrage around the globe, announcing the killings of hostages from China and Norway and claiming it plans to attack New York City.

Here are the most important recent developments:

The latest

• NEW: Lawmakers in France’s National Assembly on Thursday approved a plan by President Francois Hollande to extend by three months — to February 2016 — the state of emergency declared the night of the Paris attacks. The bill, which gives the government sweeping powers, now moves to France’s upper house, or Senate, for an expected Friday vote.

• NEW: Chinese President Xi Jinping “strongly condemned” ISIS for kidnapping and killing Fan Jinghui, the first known Chinese national to die at the hands of the terror group. ISIS announced that its militants had killed Fan and a Norwegian citizen in the latest edition of its English-language magazine, Dabiq. Blasting ISIS for having “brutally murdered” Fan, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said his government “firmly cracks down on … any terrorist crime that challenges the baseline of human civilization.” Hong added, “(China) will continue to enhance counter-terrorism cooperation with the international community to safeguard world peace and tranquility.”

• Belgian authorities are conducting six raids at various locations around Brussels on Thursday in relation to one of the Paris attackers, said Eric Van Der Sypt of the country’s federal prosecutor’s office. The raids are targeting people connected to Bilal Hadfi, one of the suicide bombers who blew themselves up Friday outside France’s national stadium on the outskirts of Paris. A separate raid was carried out in the Brussels suburb of Laeken in connection to the Paris attacks, and one person was taken in for questioning, the official said.

The investigation and the raids

• Seven men and a woman were detained in the major police operation Wednesday in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis.

• The suspects appeared to be “prepared to act” in another possible attack, Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins said, noting their weaponry, structured organization and determination.

• A suicide bomber who blew herself up during the raids has been identified as a cousin of Abaaoud, a Belgian state broadcaster reported. CNN has not verified the report, but earlier Wednesday, a Belgian counterterrorism official told CNN that authorities had launched the raid believing Abaaoud’s female cousin was in one of the apartments targeted in Saint-Denis.

• Investigators will use DNA analysis to determine whether Abaaoud was killed in the raid. A French commando team used powerful munitions to neutralize suspects, resulting in the collapse of an entire floor of the building. In the rubble, investigators found body parts, the Belgian counterterrorism official said.

• Neither Abaaoud nor Salah Abdeslam, a French citizen suspected of involvement in Friday’s attacks, were among the people taken into custody after the raids, authorities said.

• Two suspects detained in the Saint-Denis raids, both of whom required surgery for arm injuries, were treated at a hospital in Bobigny, France.

• Five police officers were slightly wounded and a police dog was killed.

• One of the Paris attacker’s cell phones was found in a trash bin outside the Bataclan concert hall, where most of Friday’s victims were gunned down. A message on the phone said, “Here we go, it’s starting,” according to Molins, the Paris prosecutor.

The scene in France

• A bomb squad destroyed a suspicious package at the Gare du Nord train station Wednesday. It was not an explosive device, but the busy station was briefly evacuated.

• President Hollande has reiterated his country’s commitment to accepting refugees, describing it as a “humanitarian duty.” In the next two years, 30,000 refugees will be welcomed, he said, but authorities also will conduct security screenings.

• Amid tensions across France, a veiled Muslim woman was hit and stabbed Wednesday at the exit of a metro station in Marseille “because of her religious symbols,” authorities said. Also in Marseille, a Jewish teacher was stabbed “by several individuals uttering anti-Semitic remarks and glorifying terrorism,” officials said. One of the attackers was reported to be wearing a T-shirt bearing an ISIS symbol.

• The traditional opening of the Christmas lights in Paris was canceled because of the Friday terrorist attacks, organizers said.

Around the globe

• U.S. President Barack Obama has warned of the long road that lies ahead in the global effort to defeat ISIS. “It’s going to be a multiyear task,” he said Thursday at a regional conference in the Philippines. “And we’re not going to be able to fully succeed in eliminating their safe havens until we have a political settlement of some sort in Syria.”

• An ISIS video released Wednesday warns of an impending attack on New York City. Mayor Bill de Blasio said police are “taking all necessary precautions” in areas shown in the video and throughout the city. “Stoking fear is the goal of terrorist organizations,” he said, “but New York City will not be intimidated.”

• In the latest publication of ISIS’ Dabiq magazine, the terrorist group includes a list of the latest attacks for which it claims responsibility, including the downing the Russian passenger plane in Sinai, the suicide attacks in Lebanon and the attacks in Paris.

• Thirty-three ISIS members have been killed by French and other military airstrikes in the last 72 hours, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based monitoring group, said Wednesday.