French President Francois Hollande declared a state of war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) before a rare joint session of parliament on Monday, shortly after French authorities carried out 168 raids during a massive manhunt for the terrorists behind Friday’s deadly attacks in Paris.
Hollande, only the third president to speak before both houses of parliament since 1848, said the attacks were “planned in Syria, organized in Belgium, perpetrated on our soil with French complicity,” The New York Times reported Monday.
Mr. Hollande reiterated his determination to annihilate the Islamic State. “France is at war,” he told a rare joint session of Parliament at the Château de Versailles. Mr. Hollande proposed extending the state of emergency that he declared on Friday for three months, and making it easier to revoke the French citizenship of those who hold dual passports and are involved in terrorism.
Hollande also called on European nations to do a better job of securing their borders, and announced plans to change the French constitution to give the state more power to combat terrorism.
Investigations into the cells responsible for the terror attacks, including one of the suspected masterminds Salah Abdeslam, have spread across France, NBC News reported. A video of an accompanying NBC News report is embedded below.
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said that 23 people had been arrested — while 104 others detained for questioning — over a 48-hour period. He added that guns, bulletproof vests and even a rocket launcher had been seized.
“This is just the beginning,” Cazeneuve said. “The response of France will be total. Those who attack France, we will catch them and we will be unrelenting with them … Terrorists will never destroy the Republic, because the Republic will destroy them.”
A total of 168 raids took place throughout the country, including in Toulouse, Grenoble, Bobigny and Lyon.
On Friday night, eight terrorists armed with Kalashnikov rifles and suicide vests attacked six locations in Paris. Six of the terrorists blew themselves up, one was killed in a shootout with police, and the eighth remains at large. French officials have been working with other European authorities to apprehend suspects, particularly in Belgium, where two of the terrorists were residing before the attacks. Belgium’s federal prosecutor confirmed this morning that two individuals have already been arrested and charged “with participating and preparing terrorist attacks,” according to ABC News.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said that violent extremism was a “gigantic problem” in Molenbeek, an immigrant-rich Brussels neighborhood where a number of arrests were made. The terrorist who killed four people during an attack on a Paris kosher deli in January acquired a weapon in Molenbeek, and the terrorist who killed four people at the Jewish Museum of Belgium last year also spent time in the area.
NBC later reported that a top French official said that Abdeslam was stopped and then released on Saturday between the French and Belgian borders, as guards had not been warned that he was being sought in connection with the attacks. One of Abdesalem’s brothers is currently in custody, while another died during the attacks.
[Photo: CBSN / YouTube ]