About the author  ⁄ WFIN

ChiccoDodiFC/iStock/Thinkstock(ROME) — The Italian government is looking for five people after the US Embassy warned Wednesday of a Paris-style attack at Italian landmarks, an official told Italian TV.

“Since yesterday afternoon, our security forces have been working to find five people,” Paolo Gentiloni, the country’s Foreign Affairs Minister, told Rai 3. It was not clear exactly who the government was searching for.

“The Minister of the Interior has explained many times that we are at a very high level of alert covering symbolic sites, places where people gather, from stadiums to cathedrals, and St. Peter’s in particular, which were, among others, the places highlighted by the FBI yesterday,” Gentiloni said. “We always take such signals of alarm very seriously, especially when they come from the United States.”

The U.S. Embassy in Rome warned U.S. citizens early Thursday morning of “potential targets” for terror attacks in Rome and Milan, according to a bulletin.

They included St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican and the Duomo and La Scala in Milan, the bulletin said.

“Terrorist groups may possibly utilize similar methods used in the recent Paris attacks,” the bulletin said. “The Italian authorities are aware of these threats.”

The search comes amid heightened fears of additional terror attacks both in France and elsewhere in Europe.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

KGrif/iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(PARIS) — France intends to intensify its airstrikes against ISIS in Syria, according to a statement released Thursday by French President Francois Hollande.

The French president instructed his Defense Council to prepare for “the intensification of the ongoing military operations in order to fight Daesh [ISIS] in Syria as well as in Iraq.”

France began hitting ISIS in Syria on Sunday, with Hollande having said that his nation was “at war with ISIS.”

Hollande and his Defense Council met Thursday to discuss the operations undertaken to arrest those responsible for last week’s attacks. The French president specifically brought up diplomatic measures, such as trips to Washington and Moscow.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

(SAINT-DENIS, France) — The blast from a suicide bomb set off during a police raid by the cousin of the alleged mastermind of the Paris attacks was recorded on cellphone footage obtained by ABC News.

The video appears to have been recorded by someone in a building across the street from the building in Saint-Denis, which was the site of a deadly police raid early Wednesday morning.

A group of officers who appear to be in black tactical gear are seen going into the building from the ground floor entrance.

At the top of the building, a number of small lights can be seen shining on the exterior walls.

Gunfire can be heard throughout, but the biggest noise comes from an explosion on the top floor of the four-story building.

That is believed to be the moment when Hasna Ait Boulahcen, the cousin of alleged mastermind Abdelhamid Abaaoud, set off a suicide bomb after police entered their apartment.

French officials have since confirmed that both Abaaoud and Boulahcen were killed in the raid, Boulahcen as a result of her suicide bomb.

Police used almost 5,000 bullets, grenades, and sniper fire during the raid.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Obtained by ABC News(PARIS) — The alleged mastermind of last week’s deadly Paris attacks was killed Wednesday during a raid carried out by French police, the Paris prosecutor confirmed Thursday.

Abdelhamid Abaaoud was identified by his fingerprints collected at the scene in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis. His body was found “riddled with impacts,” according to the prosecutor’s statement.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve Thursday said authorities have confirmed that Abaaoud played a “key role” in last Friday’s coordinated attacks. They have also determined that Abaaoud played a role in four of six attacks that officials have foiled since the spring, but it’s unclear whether he played a role in the thwarted train attack in August.

Cazeneuve said French officials received no warning that Abaaoud, a Belgian citizen, had returned to Europe until Nov. 16, three days after the Paris attacks, when a country outside Europe told French authorities that there were signs of his presence in Greece.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls told France 2 on Thursday that it was unclear how Abbaoud got back into the country.

Cazeneuve called on Europe to do more to share intelligence and combat arms trafficking.

The operation where Abaaoud was killed started with shootings at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday, officials said. It resulted in the initial arrest of three people inside an apartment. At that point, a woman triggered a suicide vest.

Police fired nearly 5,000 rounds during the Saint-Denis raid, Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins said Wednesday, adding that it was a particularly difficult raid because the apartment had an armored door.

Investigators were led to the apartment building in Saint-Denis after reviewing cellphone records and surveillance video indicating that Abaaoud, previously thought to be in Syria, was staying there, Molins said.

Molins said the blast from the suicide bomber caused the building to partially collapse, which has added to the amount of time needed to conduct the investigation because officials have had to reinforce the walls before collecting more evidence.

“We have reason to believe, given their weaponry, given their structured organization, and their determination, we have reason to believe this commando cell could have moved to act,” Molins said after the raid.

Meanwhile, Belgian police early Thursday morning detained one person in connection with Friday’s attacks, in the Laeken area of Brussels, according to the Belgian Prosecutor’s office.

The individual is being questioned but there is no indication of what the connection might be to the attacks.

The Prosecutor’s office also confirmed that six raids were taking place across Belgium, including Molenbeek, Brussels-city and Jette.

The raids are connected to Bilal Hadfi, one of the alleged Paris stadium bombers.

ABC Breaking News | Latest News Videos

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

JaysonPhotography/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — No major movement on Wall Street Thursday, as stocks alternated between small losses and small gains for most of the session.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended the day down 4.41, closing at 17732.75.

The Nasdaq dipped 1.56 to a close of 5073.64, while the S&P 500 slid 4.41 to 2081.24.

The Labor Department said Thursday that the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits dropped by 5,000 last week.

Also on Thursday, Freddie Mac said that rates on 30-year fixed loans slipped to about 3.97 percent. Rates on 15-year mortgages — popular among refinancers — down to 3.18 percent.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

(PARIS) — French authorities have identified the woman who blew herself up with a suicide bomb during a police raid in Paris Wednesday as Hasna Ait Boulahcen, a cousin of the Paris attacks purported ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud, according to two senior French officials.

Abaaoud was also killed in the dramatic raid in the neighborhood of Saint-Denis north of Paris’ city center. French authorities said that nearly 5,000 bullets were fired in the raid and that police were temporarily stymied by a reinforced door that blocked their entry to an apartment holding the perpetrators. Speaking to Le Parisien, the head of France’s elite police unit RAID said the delay cost them the element of surprise and the operation turned into a lengthy firefight against “real professionals.”

It didn’t end for about an hour, when a woman, now identified as Boulahcen, apparently blew herself up nearly taking down part of the building, officials said.

On Thursday, authorities confirmed Abaaoud was among the dead, ending one of multiple urgent manhunts. French authorities identified Abaaoud as the ringleader of the killers who attacked six separate Paris locations last Friday, taking more than 120 lives. Abaaoud is believed to have been involved in at least four other terror plots and was almost arrested in January, but managed to escape to Syria.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Telegram(NEW YORK) — Sending a Telegram has been given a new meaning in the digital age.

A messaging service taking its name from the old-school method of communication is in the spotlight after its founder blocked public channels on the site that he said espoused ISIS-related content. While it’s unclear the extent to which ISIS may be using the service, the group has been known to turn to social media to spread propaganda and recruit followers.

Telegram founder Pavel Durov said on Thursday that privacy remains “paramount” but said deleting some public channels — such as those he said promote ISIS propaganda — was fair game. The company said in a tweet that the channels were identified after users reported them for abusing its policy.

Here’s a look at how the service works:

What Telegram Is

Think of Telegram as a super secure hybrid of email and text messaging. The free service, which was launched in 2013, allows users to send text and multimedia messages privately, with groups and also through public channels.

What’s the Difference Between a Chat, Group and a Channel?

Chats are private, encrypted messages. Groups are private larger discussions available for as many as 200 users, while channels — like the ones Durov said he banned — are public broadcasts.

Why Is Telegram Attractive to Security Conscious Users?

Telegram offers two layers of secure encryption for its chats.

“Telegram’s special secret chats use end-to-end encryption, leave no trace on our servers, support self-destructing messages and don’t allow forwarding,” the company’s website reads. “About the only thing secret chats don’t have is cloud storage — they can only be accessed on their devices of origin.”

Telegram’s team is so confident in the security of its messages, it’s willing to put its money where its mouth is by offering a $300,000 reward to anyone who can prove they have deciphered a private message, according to the company’s website.

What Telegram Says It Won’t Touch

What users do privately is their own business, according to the service’s current FAQ section, which reads: “All Telegram chats and group chats are private territory of their respective participants and we do not process any requests related to them.”

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

iStock/Thinkstock(JERUSALEM) — An American teenager was among at least five people killed in separate attacks in Israel and the West Bank that also left several others injured, officials said on Thursday.

An 18-year-old American was killed in an attack in the West Bank, according to Israeli police, which did not release the victim’s name. A U.S. consulate official told ABC News that they “are aware of reports that U.S. citizens were injured in an attack in the West Bank today, but we have no information to confirm these reports at this time.”

In the first attack Thursday, a Palestinian stabbed two Israelis to death and one person was wounded in a busy commercial area on Ben Tzvi road in southern Tel Aviv, authorities said. At the time of the assault, victims were reportedly praying.

Later in the day in the West Bank, near a Jewish settlement, an attacker opened fire and then crashed a car into pedestrians, according to the Israeli military. In addition to the American teenager, two other people were killed, including one Palestinian and one Israeli, and several others were injured.

Both Palestinian assailants in the two attacks were detained by officials. The attacks were some of the first acts of violence in nearly three weeks in Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territories after a wave of violence last month.

The Israeli death toll now stands at 17 since a wave of violence began in October, according to the Israeli government. At least 82 Palestinians have been killed in that period.

Police remain concerned about the unrest and are urging all sides to restore calm and prevent further actions that might escalate tensions.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Purestock/Thinkstock(TORONTO) — A Toronto couple recently canceled their big wedding to use the money instead to help sponsor a Syrian refugee family’s settlement into Canada.

Samantha Jackson and Farzin Yousefian had planned a traditional wedding for March — complete with a gorgeous venue, a caterer and other vendors – costing tens of thousands of dollars, Jackson told ABC News Thursday.

But the two decided to toss their plans after realizing the money could be used for a cause close to their hearts and greater than themselves, said Jackson, a doctorate student studying public policy.

“We were in the midst of wedding planning in September when that devastating photo of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi found dead on a beach came out,” Jackson said. “Like so many other people, we became acutely aware of how bad the situation was getting and how important it was to act and do something positive, so we canceled the wedding and redirected the funds.”

The bride explained she’d been volunteering for Ryerson University Lifeline Syria Challenge, which has been fundraising money to help cover the cost of rent, clothing and food for one year for Syrian refugee families resettling in the Toronto area. She and Yousefian decided to use the money for the wedding to help sponsor a Syrian family of four.

“We realized how all the money we would’ve put to our wedding would be better used helping give Syrian refugee families the second chance they deserve,” Jackson said.

Jackson added that she and Yousefian acted fast and decided to have a small City Hall wedding last month, followed by a casual dinner with friends and family and a small reception at a bar in Toronto.

“Our family and friends were absolutely thrilled and supportive,” Jackson said. “And rather than giving the traditional gift, they made donations to help fund our sponsorship of a Syrian refugee family.”

The couple has raised $17,500 so far toward their goal of $27,000, which is the amount needed to sponsor a Syrian family of four in the Toronto area, she said.

“Our wedding was perfect,” Jackson said, “and it was definitely the perfect way to start our marriage.”

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

(NEW YORK) — The alleged mastermind of last week’s Paris terror attacks had been involved in planning several other would-be attacks in recent months, officials say.

Abdelhamid Abaaoud was killed during a police raid on a home in the Parisian suburb of Saint-Denis Wednesday morning and police identified him using his fingerprints.

Abaaoud was a Moroccan-born Belgian citizen, and officials have confirmed that he traveled to Syria in 2014.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve on Thursday said Abbaoud seems to have been involved in at least four of six terror plots that have been thwarted since this spring.

He was confirmed to have had connections to two jihadists who had been detained by French authorities. The first was detained in June after a trip to Turkey and another confirmed to officials in August that he had been trained and commissioned by Abbaoud to commit violent acts in France or elsewhere.

Officials are also investigating a possible connection between Abbaoud and a jihadist who was detained in July en route to Prague with a false Swedish passport and unspecified plans to commit a terrorist attack, Cazeneuve said.

Beyond those personal connections, French officials say they have also established that Abbaoud had a role in an attack in April that left one woman dead.

That incident involved Sid Ahmed Glham, a 24-year-old Algerian who moved to France in 2009. Glham is believed to have killed a French woman in her car, but then did not continue the rest of his alleged plan after he contacted authorities to call for an ambulance because he had injured himself.

“Documents were also found and they prove, without any ambiguity, that the individual was preparing an imminent attack, in all probability, against one or two churches,” Cazeneuve said at the time.

Abbaoud’s specific role in the April attack has not been publicly disclosed.

Officials are still working to see whether Abbaoud was connected in any way to the attempted shooting on a Thalys train that ended after U.S. passengers helped subdue the assailant in August.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →