The Latest: Protective suits stolen from Paris hospital

AP News
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Posted: Nov 22, 2015 7:48 PM
The Latest: Protective suits stolen from Paris hospital

BRUSSELS (AP) — The latest on the deadly attacks in Paris and the heightened security in Europe (All times local):

1:44 a.m.

The authority for the Paris public hospitals says a number of protective health outfits, similar to those worn by people dealing with the Ebola virus, have been missing from a locked room in one of the city's hospitals.

Following the incident in the Necker hospital, a formal complaint was filed on Thursday, the same day Prime Minister Manuel Valls said in the National Assembly "there may also be a risk of chemical and bacteriological weapons" used by attackers.

The city has been on alert after 130 people were killed by gunmen and suicide bombers on Nov. 13.

The public AP-HP authority said Sunday a "limited number" of suits were missing but wouldn't confirm media reports saying a dozen hermetic protective overalls, three dozen pairs of special boots resistant to chemical agents, gloves and anti-bacterial masks have disappeared.

The AP-HP said the missing clothing were stored with other materials in code-locked premises but that many staff had access to the room to pick up ordinary supplies. Since the incident was discovered on Wednesday, security has been reinforced at the room.

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1:00 a.m.

When Belgian authorities asked people to stop commenting on ongoing police operations in social media to avoid tipping off suspects during Sunday's raids, people unexpectedly responded by tweeting cat pictures.

The hashtag #BrusselsLockdown suddenly shifted from serious to humorous tweets with a flood of pictures of cats in all kinds of situations —holding their paws up as captured suspects, posing as police snipers with automatic weapons, and ignoring police warnings to stay away from windows. One tweet showed Prime Minister Charles Michel with a penciled in cat's moustache.

Federal prosecutor Eric Van Der Sypt says police "want to thank the press and social media users because they took the need of this operation into account."

The tweets came as police carried out 22 raids in Brussels and southern Charleroi in which 16 suspects were detained, but not Paris fugitive Salah Abdeslam.

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12:50 a.m.

Belgian prosecutors announce they have detained 16 people in raids linked to possible attacks in Belgium but said Paris fugitive Salah Abdeslam was not among them.

Federal prosecutor Eric Van Der Sypt said that "no firearms or explosives were discovered," in the 22 raids — 19 in Brussels and the three in Charleroi in the country's south.

"The investigation continues," he said.

One of those detained was injured when a car he was in tried to ram police during an attempted getaway.

11:40 p.m.

A government official says a series of police raids in central Brussels have ended, hours after the government decided to keep its terror alert at the highest possible level.

The situation was tense Sunday night in the wider area around the Grand Place, with police out in force and several raids looking for suspects going on. At one point, security forces closed off streets and yelled at people to stay away.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation was still ongoing, said the results of the raids would be discussed at a press conference to be held shortly.

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6:40 p.m.

French police have issued a new appeal to identify the third man involved in the attacks at the national stadium on Nov. 13.

National Police on Sunday posted a photo of the man on Twitter, appealing to the public for information that would help identify him. The man was among three people who died in the attacks outside the stadium.

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6:30 p.m.

The national anthem is being sung across soccer stadiums in France as a show of unity in the wake of the Paris attacks.

Before Caen's game against Angers on Sunday, a teenage girl struck up the La Marseillaise before fans joined in a heartfelt rendition.

In chilly Brittany, dozens of children dressed either all in blue, white or red formed a human French flag in the center circle moments before the match between Rennes and Bordeaux.

Even on the island of Corsica, where many resent the central government in France, fans applauded after the anthem was played before Bastia hosted Gazelec Ajaacio in the derby at Stade Armand Cesari. A banner spread on the pitch read "Ripusate in Pace" — "Rest in Peace" in Corsican.

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6:10 p.m.

Belgium government officials are holding a national security council meeting on whether to lower the capital's threat alert level and restore normalcy as the work week is set to return on Monday.

Weekend measures have included shutting down Brussels' subway system and canceling public activities. They have created an eerie calm in the heart of the city, which is usually bustling with tourists and residents.

Upon entering the security council meeting on Sunday evening, Belgian Vice President Kris Peeters said "tomorrow, we have school. There are the businesses. We have a new situation."

He added that "we have to make decisions to avoid that Brussels will be an empty city."

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4:10 p.m.

The U.S. Homeland Security secretary says American officials have "no specific credible intelligence" about a potential threat from a Paris-type attack directed at the United States.

Jeh Johnson says authorities always have concerns about "potential copycat acts" and "home-born, home-grown violent extremism." He tells NBC's "Meet the Press" that Washington is "continually re-evaluating our security posture."

Discussing the situation in Brussels, Johnson says American officials are in constant touch with law enforcement and intelligence authorities in Europe and elsewhere.

Johnson doesn't want to freeze a program that lets foreigners enter the U.S. without visas from 38 countries for short stays. But he says he's willing to work with U.S. lawmakers to see whether some "security enhancements" are needed in the visa-waiver program.

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3:55 p.m.

The Czech Republic's defense minister says that his country would be able to deploy about 200 soldiers in the case of an international ground operation against the Islamic State group.

Martin Stropnicky says most of them would be members of an anti-chemical warfare unit, while the rest would be medical personnel.

Speaking Sunday on Czech public television, Stropnicky said the Czechs would participate if there were a NATO ground operation.

He said a preferable solution would be the current airstrikes alongside a ground attack by forces from the countries in the region while the West would help provide weapons to their armies.

The minister said that after the Paris attacks "the probability of a ground operation is increasing, but nothing has been decided yet."

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3:45 p.m.

European Union President Donald Tusk has said it is a political duty to jointly fight extremism, calling it the "greatest challenge of our time."

Tusk, on a one-day visit to Albania's capital, Tirana, on Sunday, said that "freedom and solidarity are many times stronger than violence and fear."

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said that his country was equally threatened like the other Western democracies, but added that there was no place for fear, and "no need to change anything in the daily agenda."

Last week's attacks in Paris involving gunmen and suicide bombers killed 130 people.

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2:55 p.m.

Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon says "several suspects" tied to the Paris attacks could be at large in the country.

Jambon told Flemish broadcaster VRT this is why Belgium has put so many security resources in place in the past few days.

Authorities have previously said Salah Abdeslam, who is suspected of playing a key role in the attacks, is believed to have crossed into Belgium.

But Jambon said Sunday that the threat facing Brussels wouldn't necessarily disappear if Abdeslam was found, because "unfortunately, the threat is wider than this (one) figure."

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2:40 p.m.

A burst of unexplained noises have scared some travelers at the Gare du Nord train station in Paris, where citizens are on edge after last week's attacks that killed 130 people.

However, Stephane Brossard of the Paris police told the AP that the Sunday afternoon noises that some interpreted as gunshots were caused by a pigeon that got electrocuted on the train tracks.

In a sign of the nervousness that has swept through Paris since the attacks, witnesses went to social media to describe how passengers ran out of their trains after hearing the noises.

The fate of the pigeon wasn't immediately known.

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2:20 p.m.

The brother of Salah Abdeslam, who is thought to have played a key role in the Paris attacks and is believed to be on the run in Belgium, has appealed to him to turn himself in.

Mohamed Abdeslam told Belgian broadcaster RTBF Sunday he would rather see his "brother in prison than in a cemetery."

Mohamed's other brother, Brahim, was one of the suicide bombers in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks that killed 130 people.

He said he had noticed a change in his brothers' behavior about six months ago, when they gave up drinking and began going to the mosque occasionally, but said there was never any sign of radicalization.

He said he was convinced his brothers were manipulated, adding he hoped that Salah had a change of heart before the Paris attacks happened and that he wasn't actually involved.

Asked if he had a message for his brother, he said: "Surrender."

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1:10 p.m.

The mayor of one of Brussels' many municipalities has told Belgian media that the capital is still facing a grave threat, according to the prime minister.

Schaerbeek Mayor Bernard Clerfayt said Sunday: "There are two terrorists in the Brussels region that could commit very dangerous acts."

One of the suspected Paris attackers, Salah Abdeslam, is at large and is known to have crossed into Belgium the morning after the Nov. 13 attacks. The source of the mayor's information about a second suspect wasn't immediately clear and the prime minister's office declined to comment.

Belgium's national Crisis Center on Saturday raised the threat alert in the Brussels region to Level 4, which indicates a "serious and immediate threat."

Clerfayt said it was necessary to try to anticipate and prevent any such acts and their consequences.

He said: "As long as this threat is present, we must be very attentive."

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10:55 a.m.

France's defense minister says French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle sent to help operations against Islamic State militants in Syria will be "operational" from Monday and "ready to act."

France has intensified its aerial bombing in Syria since IS militants attacked a concert hall, cafes and restaurants and a stadium in Paris, killing 130 people and wounding hundreds.

Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told French media on Sunday that IS must be destroyed at all costs.

Le Drian said: "We must annihilate Islamic State worldwide," adding: "that's the only possible direction." He said any country "who wants to participate militarily is welcome."

President Francois Hollande is meeting in Paris with British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday, then going to Washington and Moscow later in the week to push for a stronger international coalition against IS.

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9:45 a.m.

British Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to outline his plan for combatting the Islamic State group this week as he moves toward seeking Parliament's approval for airstrikes on the group's Syrian strongholds.

The Sunday Times said Cameron will publish a seven-point plan on Syria this week that will include a blueprint for the nation's future.

Foreign Minister Philip Hammond has said Cameron will go to Parliament once he believes there is a consensus in favor of airstrikes.

Cameron expects the passage of a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for united action against the Islamic State group to bolster his chances in Parliament.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has warned about the risks of military intervention but said he will listen to the government's proposal.

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9:30 a.m.

Brussels residents are waking up to largely empty streets as the city enters its second day under the highest threat level and the manhunt continues for a suspect missing since the Nov. 13 attacks in France.

Belgium's national Crisis Center on Saturday raised the threat alert in the Brussels region to Level 4, which indicates a "serious and immediate threat."

Subways and underground trams remain closed Sunday and officials recommended that sports competitions and all activities in public buildings should be cancelled and malls and commercial centers closed.

Belgian officials say the measures were recommended due to the extra security they would require. The country's Regional Security Council is set to meet Sunday afternoon to update any new measures needed.