Three Arrested in Belgium for Paris Attacks

Updated | Police in Belgium arrested three suspects in Brussels on Saturday during raids related to the series of deadly attacks in Paris on Friday that killed at least 127 people and wounded hundreds, according to the AFP.

One of the suspects arrested in Belgium is believed to have been in Paris at the time of the attacks, officials said.

The arrests were connected to a car that had been rented in Belgium and found near Paris' Bataclan concert hall, where most of victims were killed on Friday. Police arrested the suspects in the Brussels district of Molenbeek, which has been linked to other previous terror plots.

Two of the eight attackers believed to have carried out the attacks have been identified as Ismaël Omar Mostefai and Abbdulakbak B., according to French media. Earlier, police in France took the father and brother of Mostefai, who is a French national, into custody, AFP reported.

The 34-year-old brother of Mostefai reportedly contacted police and was taken in by authorities. The gunman was identified via a severed fingertip after his body was found at the Bataclan music hall, where dozens were killed when three men donning suicide vests opened fire on concertgoers.

Investigators are reportedly searching the homes of friends and family of Mostefai, whose father lives in the small town of Romilly-sur-Seine, 80 miles east of the French capital, AFP reports. Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said that Mostefai, who was reportedly from the Courcouronnes suburb in southern Paris, was known to be close to radical Islam.

French President Francois Hollande on Saturday blamed the Islamic State (ISIS) extremist group for the series of attacks in Paris on Friday that left at least 127 people dead, describing it as a "cowardly act of war."

Speaking in a television address, Hollande said: "The attacks were planned and organized from abroad with help from inside France."

Following his comments, ISIS released an official written statement in French and Arabic and an audio statement in French claiming responsibility for the attacks. The group indicated that eight suicide bombers were involved in the operation and said the attacks were a response to French air strikes against "Muslims in the Caliphate," according to Rita Katz, the founder of U.S.-based online jihadi monitoring service SITE Intelligence. The group said in the statement that "France remains at the top list of ISIS targets," she tweeted.

"Eight brothers carrying explosive belts and guns targeted areas in the heart of the French capital that were specifically chosen in advance," the statement reads. "The Stade de France during a match against Germany which that imbecile Francois Hollande was attending; the Bataclan where hundreds of idolaters were together in a party of perversity as well as other targets in the 10th, 11th and 18th arrondissements."

The Parisian prosecutor confirmed Saturday that the attacks left 127 people dead and 352 injured, with 99 in critical condition. Seven of the attackers were also confirmed dead, according to the Associated Press.

British government sources told the BBC that the attackers were "members of a self-contained cell and had travelled to Syria."

A Syrian passport was found on the body of one of the suicide bombers who targeted the Stade de France in one of the attacks, two French police officials, speaking on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media, told Associated Press. According to Reuters, the passport holder passed through the Leros, an island in Greece, on October 3rd.

Liberation reports that an Egyptian passport was found on another suicide bomber who attacked the Stade de France.

Hollande announced that France will observe three days of national mourning and that he would address parliament on Monday. Four gunmen shot and killed at least 87 people on Friday night when they entered the Bataclan concert venue during a set by the rock band Eagles of Death Metal, a Paris city hall official told Reuters. French commandos later stormed the building. Three of the gunmen then detonated explosive belts. Graphic footage obtained by French daily Le Monde showed people running for the Bataclan's emergency exit and climbing out of its windows during the attack.

Forty people were killed in five other attacks around Paris, which included a double suicide bombing outside the Stade de France football stadium where the French national team was playing Germany. Hollande was a spectator at the game.

Friday's attack is the worst to hit Europe since the 2004 Madrid bombings. At least 300 people were hospitalized and 80 of those remain in a critical condition, a Paris hospital confirmed to AFP news agency. It is the second mass killing that France has witnessed this year, after three attackers killed 18 people in Paris in separate attacks across three days in January.

ISIS released an undated video on Saturday calling on French Muslims to carry out attacks in the country in reaction to the French government's military campaign against the group in Syria and Iraq. The group's foreign media arm, Al-Hayat Media Center, released the video that featured a militant calling on French Muslims to carry out attacks.

"As long as you keep bombing you will not live in peace. You will even fear travelling to the market," said the Arabic-speaking militant.

Rumours circulated on social media that shots were fired on Saturday in Bagnolet in eastern Paris but French journalists reported that they were fireworks at a wedding. Paris' police department tweeted: "Do not distribute or relay false information or false rumours."

Politicians and leaders around the world have been reacting to the attacks. Russia's President, Vladimir Putin, sent Hollande a telegram. "I would like to express my deepest condolences to you personally and all the people of France in connection with the death of a large number of civilians as a result of an unprecedented series of terrorist attacks in Paris," Putin wrote. "I would like to confirm that the Russian side is ready for the closest possible cooperation with French partners in the investigation of this crime committed in Paris. I expect that its paymasters and perpetrators will be punished."

Syrian state media quoted President Bashar al-Assad of Syria as saying: "What France suffered from savage terror is what the Syrian people have been enduring for over five years."

Meanwhile, a France-bound passenger plane was grounded and evacuated at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport on Saturday after a threatening tweet was received, Dutch authorities told Reuters. 

In the U.K., the North Terminal of London's Gatwick Airport was evacuated on Saturday morning "due to an incident" in what the airport called "a precautionary measure" in a tweet. British police confirmed that a 41-year-old man from France is being questioned after a firearm was discovered at the airport. 

British Prime Minister David Cameron ordered an emergency meeting of the government's Cobra security committee on Saturday to discuss Britain's response to the attacks. Britain's terrorism threat level is currently "severe", the second-highest category.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has given local authorities the power to impose curfews if necessary following the wave of attacks. Paris police have placed a temporary ban on public demonstrations in the French capital and the surrounding areas until Thursday. France will hold a minute's silence for the victims of the attacks at midday on Monday. Cazeneuve confirmed that schools would open on Monday. 

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter called his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian on Saturday to discuss the attacks, the Pentagon said in a statement. It added that Washington was "committed to helping France in any way."

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, in a tweet, advised the country's citizens to avoid travelling to Paris unless it was "strictly necessary" and said that security will be tightened at public events in Belgium.

London Mayor Boris Johnson spoke about the attacks on Saturday, calling Paris "our sister city" and saying that the people who launched the attacks "will not succeed" and "will be defeated."

Israel is to fly its flags at its diplomatic offices abroad at half mast in solidarity with the people of Paris. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the country stands "shoulder to shoulder" with France "in our common battle against terrorism."

Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad have both condemned the attacks, AFP news agency reported.

Pope Francis condemned the killings as "inhuman" acts and said he was praying for the victims and their families.

"There is no justification for these things," he said in a telephone call to an Italian Catholic television channel, according to Reuters.

Marine Le Pen, leader of the right-wing opposition National Front party, tweeted: "For the sixth time in 2015, Islamist terrorism has hurt our country. France is crying for its dead and I am crying with it."

France's newspapers reacted to the attacks with dread at what had taken place on the capital's streets. French daily Le Parisien splashed the headline: "This time it's war." Le Figaro led with: "War in central Paris." Liberation went with: "Carnage in Paris." And sports publication L'Equipe published one word, "Horror", on a black background.

The Eiffel Tower will be closed indefinitely after the attacks, the landmark's operator said on Saturday. All sporting events due to take place in the city on Saturday were cancelled. The French Football Federation and England's Football Association confirmed that Tuesday's international football friendly between the two countries would go ahead at Wembley Stadium. It has also been confirmed that the U.N. climate conference will take place as planned near Paris between November 30 and December 11.

A series of world landmarks, including Toronto's CN Tower, the Sydney Opera House and New York's 1 World Trade Center, were lit up in the colors of the French flag in reaction to the attacks.

British police confirmed that a 41-year-old man from France is being questioned after a firearm was discovered at the airport.