Police have begun questioning the relatives of the first gunman to be identified after a wave of suicide bombings and shootings in Paris left 129 people dead, French media reported as the investigation into the attacks widened to take in three other European countries.
The father and brother of Omar Ismaïl Mostefai, one of the seven jihadis killed in the deadliest attacks on French soil since the second world war, were among those being held, a judicial source confirmed.
Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the assaults on the Stade de France stadium, a packed Paris concert hall and a string of city-centre cafes and restaurants that killed 129 people and left 352 injured, 99 of them in a critical condition.
French prosecutors said three coordinated teams, identically armed with Kalashnikov automatic rifles and suicide vests, carried out the assaults using two cars registered in Belgium, where six people – including three French nationals, one allegedly involved in the attacks – were arrested on Saturday.
Announcing three days of national mourning and a national state of emergency, President François Hollande called the coordinated assault – “prepared, organised and planned overseas, with help from inside” – an “act of war” that must be countered “mercilessly”.
Notre Dame Cathedral, closed except for services, will celebrate a special commemorative mass on Sunday evening for the victims, who came from 15 different countries, their families and survivors. Major sites including the Louvre museum and the Eiffel tower were also closed to visitors.
Mostefai, 29, was identified by his severed finger, which was found among the wreckage of the Bataclan concert hall, where three militants blew themselves up in the first suicide bombings on French soil late on Friday as security forces stormed the building.
At least 89 people died at the popular rock venue in the deadliest of six separate attacks, Europe’s worst since the 1994 Madrid bombings, which left 191 people dead.
Mostefai had a record of convictions for eight petty crimes dating from 2004, but was flagged as a potential target for radicalisation as early as 2010. Some reports suggested he may have visited Syria last year, although prosecutors said he had no known link to a terrorist network.
AdvertisementHis father and 34-year-old brother were detained on Saturday and their homes searched, poice said. “It’s a crazy thing, it’s madness,” his brother told AFP before he was taken into custody, adding that he had cut ties with Mostefai several years ago.
Homes and other addresses were being searched in the Aube region, in Essonne, south of Paris, where Mostefai was born in the town of Courcouronnes, and Eure-et-Loire, where he had attended a mosque in Lucé, close to Chartres. A French MP, Jean-Pierre Georges, said the attacker lived in Chartres until 2012.
Meanwhile, the investigation was widening across Europe, with Belgian police making a number of arrests and German authorities looking into a possible link to a 51-year-old Montenegrin man recently stopped with a car full of arms and explosives.
Three men were arrested in the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek, a hotbed of radicalism in the country that proportionately supplied more fighters for Isis than any other in Europe. Three more were arrested on the French-Belgian border in a car seen at the scene of the shootings. Another Belgian-registered car used in the attacks was found in the eastern Paris suburb of Montreuil.
The Bavarian interior minister, Joachim Herrmann, said officers found automatic weapons, dynamite, hand grenades and ammunition in the Montenegrin man’s car, along with a mobile phone and car GPS system indicating he was en route to Paris
A Syrian passport found near the body of one of the attackers was identified by Greek authorities as having been recorded passing through the island of Leros, a transit point this summer for thousands of refugees and migrants entering Europe, in early October.
Greece denied earlier reports, however, that a second attacker had also accessed Europe via the country. An official also stressed there was as yet no evidence linking the attacker to the passport, which could have changed hands before the attacks or even be false.
The attacks prompted international outrage, with Barack Obama describing “an attack on all of humanity” and Pope Francis saying he was shaken by the “inhuman” atrocities. David Cameron said they suggested “a new degree of planning and coordination and a greater ambition for mass casualty attacks”.
The Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, however, said France’s foreign policy had plainly “brought no good to the French people” and that Hollande should now “act in the interest of the French people – which means changing his policies”.
The attacks came as France was preparing amid high security for the a global climate conference next month, to be attended by world leaders, and barely 10 months after the deadly shootings at the offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine and a Jewish supermarket in Paris that left 20 people dead.
Isis claimed responsibility for the attacks in a statement released online on Saturday, blaming France’s participation in US-led airstrikes against its forces and positions in Syria.
France “remains the main target of Islamic State … for having led the crusade, dared to insult our prophet, boasted of fighting Islam in France and for striking Muslims in the caliphate with their planes”, the group said in a statement.
Three of the suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the Stade de France after apparently trying to enter the national stadium where 80,000 people – including Hollande, who had to be evacuated – were watching a France-Germany football friendly.
Two more attackers detonated their explosive vests at the Bataclan, where a third was killed by police bullets. The seventh jihadi blew himself up not far from the venue.
A number of restaurants and cafes, their terraces packed on a mild November evening, were targeted by the gunmen: 12 victims lost their lives at a Cambodian restaurant near the Canal St Martin, while 19 more were killed at another eatery on the nearby Rue de Charonne.