- More details emerge of victims, attackers; 15 victims remain unidentified
Obama: Unwise to send ground troops into a war against Islamic State
WASHINGTON - At a news conference in Antalya, Turkey, Monday, President Barack Obama called Islamic State "the face of evil" in the world, but added that it would be a mistake to send American soldiers there.
“There is a cost to the other side,” the president said, referring to injuries and deaths among troops as well as the money that military actions cost. And while American troops could take and hold territory in the Middle East, he said, "that does not solve the underlying problem" that created Islamic State in the first place.
The president took several pointed shots at his critics, saying, “I can’t afford to play the political games that some may.” He added that that his periodic visits to Walter Reed to visit wounded veterans gave him pause when it came to making moves whose only intent was “posing,” “making us look tough” or “making me look tough.”
He also said, “Folks [who] want to pop off and have opinions about what they think they should do, present a specific plan.”
Obama re-emphasized that ISIL does not represent the views of “true Muslims,” but that Muslims worldwide “have to ask very serious questions about how these extremist ideologies take root.”
The president added that the overwhelming majority of victims of Islamic State are Muslim, including the recent influx of refugees from Syria.
Referring to calls that the U.S. admit Christian refugees from Syria, not Muslims, the president said, “that’s shameful. That’s not American; that’s not who we are. We don’t have religious tests for our compassion.”
While acknowledging his policy differences with his predecessor, George W. Bush, President Obama said he was “very proud” of Bush’s statement six days after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, “when he was adamant that this is not a war on Islam. … Those who have taken leadership in his party would ignore all of that — that’s not who we are. On this, they should follow his example. It’s the right one.”
Read more from The Associated Press here.
Police action ends in Brussels area
A local official says a massive police operation in the Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek has ended and that no one was injured.
Mayor Francoise Schepmans said Monday that the operation ended after more than three hours. It was unclear whether there was a major arrest during the operation which centered on a suspect in the Paris attacks.
Two small explosions were heard during a major police action in the Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek amid a manhunt for a suspect in the Paris attacks, The Associated Press reports. Dozens of masked and heavily armed security officials had sealed off the area and neighbors were told to stay out of harm’s way.
Police arrested three suspects in the impoverished Brussels neighborhood on Saturday and continued house searches. Police refused to provide any details about who may have set off the explosions or the purpose for them.
Two hours into the siege a first explosion was heard; and a similar followed it one hour later on a higher floor of a building with special security forces close by on roofs.
Belgian jihadi ID'd as mastermind
Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the child of Moroccan immigrants who grew up in the Belgian capital’s scruffy and multiethnic Molenbeek-Saint-Jean neighborhood, was identified by French authorities on Monday as the presumed mastermind of the attacks last Friday in Paris that killed 129 people and injured hundreds.
WTOP National Security Correspondent J.J. Green says that Abaaoud is now in Syria.
Belgian authorities suspect him of also helping organize and finance a terror cell in the eastern city of Verviers that was broken up in an armed police raid on Jan. 15, in which two of his presumed accomplices were killed.
French airstrikes against Islamic State strong points
On Sunday, a French defense official told CBS News that the French military has carried out “massive” airstrikes on an Islamic State strongpoint in Syria.
Twelve French jets dropped a total of 20 bombs on Raqqa in coordination with U.S. forces.
French foreign minister Laurent Fabius told CBS on Sunday the airstrikes have destroyed a jihadi training camp and a munitions dump.
Activists say French airstrikes on Raqqa did not kill civilians and only hit military targets in the Islamic State group’s de facto capital, The Associated Press reports.
Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said Monday the French targeted military facilities on the northern and southern edges of the city.
He says there are casualties among IS but did not provide numbers.
Sarmad al-Jilane, of the Raqqa-based collective called Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, told The Associated Press the city is tense, with few people venturing out even though markets are open.
France’s Defense Ministry said 12 aircraft dropped a total of 20 bombs Sunday night in the biggest airstrikes since France extended its bombing campaign against the extremist group to Syria in September.
Read the full story here.
More than 168 places in France raided Sunday night
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve says 168 locations across France have been raided overnight, and 104 people have been placed under house arrest in the past 48 hours, The Associated Press reports.
Casemeive said Monday: “It’s just a start, these operations are going to continue, the response of the Republic will be huge, will be total. The one who targets the Republic, the Republic will catch him, will be implacable.”
Meanwhile, a major action with heavily armed police is underway in the Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek amid a manhunt for a suspect of the Paris attacks. CBS News reports that police have encircled a house in the Mollenbeek neighborhood, but that they have not yet captured Saleh Abdeslam, the reputed eighth attacker.
WTOP National Security correspondent J.J. Green adds that his sources cannot confirm that Abdeslam has been arrested.
Authorities expect another wave of attacks
The French have responded with raids, arrests and airstrikes to Friday's terror attacks in Paris, but European authorities tell WTOP National Security Correspondent J.J. Green that they expect another wave of attacks from the Islamic State.
Green tells WTOP that authorities have told him, “Yes, we expect something else,” in a matter of “hours, days or weeks.”
The reason for the concern: Supposed mastermind Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who is now in Syria, came to Belgium to plan the attacks with accomplices, not all of whom can be accounted for.