The Paris terror attacks: What we know

Following is a summary of what is known so far about Friday’s attacks in Paris:

Islamic State claim

The Islamic State jihadist group has claimed responsibility for the attacks. It said “eight brothers wearing explosive belts and carrying assault rifles” conducted a “blessed attack on… Crusader France.”

“The stench of death will not leave their noses as long as they remain at the forefront of the Crusaders’ campaign, dare to curse our prophet, boast of a war on Islam in France, and strike Muslims in the lands of the caliphate with warplanes that were of no use to them in the streets and rotten alleys of Paris,” the statement posted online said.

Clues to the attackers

The main lead for French police is a Syrian connection. A Syrian passport was found near the body of one of the assailants and police believe members of the group may have trained in Jihadist areas. The attackers seemed to be fit and well-trained, a police source said. Witnesses say they were young and very self-assured.

Police identified a Frenchman, previously known to police, as “very likely” being one of the assailants.

One or more of the attackers shouted out in French, which points to others also being French nationals.

French newspaper Liberation reported that an Egyptian passport was found on another attacker.

Germany’s interior minister said Saturday that authorities have not yet established if a man arrested in Bavaria last week with a car-load of weapons was linked to the Paris killers. “There is a link to France, but it is unclear if there is a link to the attacks,” said Thomas de Maiziere. Police arrested the man on November 5 during a routine check on a motorway, saying “many machine guns, revolvers and explosives” were found in the suspect’s vehicle.

Authorities hope DNA tests and fingerprinting on the attackers’ corpses will yield further clues.

A foreign base?

Witnesses say the attackers drove up in a Belgium-registered car. This may mean the group operated from outside France, but police are not ruling out local support. Another pointer to foreign involvement is the arrest of a man in Bavaria, Germany, carrying automatic weapons and explosives, who could have a link to the Paris attacks, according to a Bavarian minister.

Coordinated operation

The simultaneous attacks on the Stade de France during an international match, on restaurants and a concert hall — all within 30 minutes — carry the hallmarks of a masterminded assault to spread fear and confusion. In August, a Frenchman arrested on his return from Syria, where he spent time in the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa, mentioned an IS order to target a concert hall, according to a police source.

Investigators into terrorist attacks in January, which targeted the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket, say the assailants received instructions from the Iraqi-Syrian border region controlled by IS.

The modus operandi: A first for France?

These attacks differ from previous ones in France, in their scale and operational style, say investigators.

Suicide vests in particular are a first. French police say this points to a highly-skilled bomb maker still at large.

“An explosives expert never takes part in attacks, he is too valuable for that. So he’s out there somewhere,” former intelligence chief Claude Chouet told AFP.

France’s response

France is throwing everything it has into the probe. All investigating judges are on alert. All French anti-terror units have been mobilised. The entire force of the so-called Judicial Police specializing in criminal probes, totalling 2,000 agents, has been deployed.

The state of emergency declared by President Francois Hollande gives police wide powers, especially for night raids. Anti-terror judges are standing by.

France has asked for assistance from foreign intelligence services, especially in Europe.

Map locates the deadly terror attacks in and around Paris, France. (AP)

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