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paris attacks

Policemen patrol in front of Notre Dame cathedral, following the Paris attacks, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015.Christophe Ena/The Associated Press

For a few brief moments, Paris was its defiant self again. Less than 48 hours after eight gunmen attacked the city's entertainment district, leaving at least 129 people dead, the central Place de la République was filled with hundreds of Parisians. Some came to lay candles, others simply to show they were unafraid. They sang the national anthem and then the Beatles' Come Together.

Then the fear returned. Someone set off a firework. Many in the traumatized crowd instead heard gunshots and started to scream. Police – including plainclothes officers among the crowd – drew their weapons. And then everybody ran.

Terror continued to rule the streets of the French capital on Sunday, especially after police – who said Saturday that all the attackers were dead – admitted that at least one suspect had managed to escape the city centre amid the chaos. A nationwide manhunt is now on for Salah Abdeslam, a 26-year-old born in Brussels.

French President François Hollande, who has called Friday's attacks an "act of war" carried out by the so-called Islamic State, will reportedly seek to extend the current state of emergency for three months, a move that would require parliamentary approval.

France launched a "major bombing campaign" on Sunday, targeting Islamic State's de facto capital of Raqqa, in eastern Syria. The French Defence Ministry said 10 French fighter jets took part in the first wave of attacks, dropping 20 bombs targeting a suspected training camp, a munitions depot and a command centre.

France's security services have been on high alert – with thousands of troops stationed at sensitive sites around the country – since the January attacks on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper and a kosher deli in Paris. An extra 1,000 additional troops have deployed in the city since Friday's attacks, and soldiers and heavily armed gendarmes were visible throughout the centre of Paris on Sunday, as well as at transit hubs and checkpoints on highways leading to and from the capital.

Hours after the synchronized attacks, French police questioned Salah Abdeslam, officials told The Associated Press on Sunday. He was one of three men in a car headed for France's border with Belgium, when police pulled them over after daybreak Saturday. Mr. Hollande had already announced new border controls to prevent perpetrators of the attacks from escaping. It's not clear why local police didn't take Salah Abdeslam into custody.

Salah Abdeslam and two of his brothers are believed to have been key organizers of the Paris plot. French police released photographs of a clean-shaven Salah Abdeslam, warning the public that the five-foot-seven suspect was extremely dangerous: "Do not intervene on your own, under any circumstances." Police said one brother, Ibrahim, died when he detonated a suicide vest during Friday's assault. Another brother, Mohamad, was arrested Saturday in Brussels.

Belgium – and specifically the hardscrabble Molenbeek neighbourhood, which has seen dozens of residents travel to Iraq and Syria to join Islamic State – appears to have been a staging ground for Friday's massacre. Two cars used by the gunmen were rented in Brussels early last week, and Belgian police made seven arrests on Saturday in connection with the Paris attacks.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the massacre had been "prepared abroad and had mobilized a team of participants located on the Belgian territory, and who may have benefited – the investigation will tell us more – from complicity in France."

The French and Belgian militants reportedly communicated beforehand with known members of Islamic State. (France is part of a U.S.-led coalition that has been carrying out air strikes in Iraq and Syria against the extremist group for the past 14 months.)

Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said his government had warned Western governments on Thursday – the day before the Paris attacks – that Islamic State was planning imminent attacks against "in particular" France, the United States and Iran.

A senior French security official told Associated Press that French intelligence received such warnings "every day."

A Syrian passport was discovered at the scene of the attacks outside the capital's main soccer stadium and it apparently belonged to one of the suicide attackers. The passport holder, using the name Ahmad al-Mohammad, apparently entered Europe among the tide of some 750,000 asylum-seekers who have arrived on the continent this year. The passport holder was registered as a new arrival at the Greek island of Leros on Oct. 3 and then crossed the border between Macedonia and Serbia on Oct. 7. He entered Croatia a day later, then fell off the radar again.

Though some security experts regarded the discovery of the passport with suspicion – Syrian passports are notoriously easy to forge, and the suicide bombers would seem to have had little need to carry identification – Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's far-right Front National, said the attacks proved the need for France to block refugees seeking to enter the country without visas.

The search for the suspect Salah Abdeslam began in earnest after a black hatchback car was found early Sunday in the eastern Paris suburb of Montreuil with several Kalashnikovs inside it. The car is believed to have been used by a team of gunmen who drove through Paris's trendy 10th and 11th arrondissements, shooting indiscriminately into the area's many restaurants and bars.

Salah Abdeslam's group was alleged to be one of three cells that launched the rapid succession of attacks Friday night. A trio of suicide bombers began the assault by detonating their explosive belts outside the Stade de France during a match between the German and French national teams.

Shortly afterward, a trio of gunmen entered the Bataclan concert venue near the city centre and began shooting concert-goers at random before detonating their suicide vests. At least 89 people were killed in the Bataclan assault alone.

There were 350 people injured in the string of attacks and 42 were still in critical condition on Sunday.

Police identified one of the Bataclan attackers as Ismael Omar Mostefai, a 29-year-old French national whose severed finger was found amid the carnage inside the theatre.

Mr. Mostefai was born in the town of Courcouronnes, south of Paris, and later moved with his father, stepmother and four siblings to Chartres, where they lived in a two-storey semi-detached home in the working-class Madeleine district. Local residents remember Mr. Mostefai as a friendly and polite neighbour, who worked as a baker and sometimes spoke of a daughter whom he rarely saw because she lived with her mother. But police said he had been on a supervision list as a suspected radical since 2010. It's believed that Mr. Mostefai left France two or three years ago, and spent a period between fall 2013 and spring 2014 in Syria.

At the Mohsinine mosque that Mr. Mostefai attended while living in Chartres – a 90-minute drive southwest of Paris – there was shock that a quiet young man who seemed most passionate when talking about sports had been identified as one of the suicide bombers.

"It was rare that he came. He might have prayed with me three times at most, that's it. There are no salafis in this mosque," said a senior member of the mosque who asked not to be named. Salafis are followers of a strain of puritanical Islam that seeks the spread of strict sharia law. Karim Ben Ayad, the vice-president of the Mohsinine mosque, said Mr. Mostefai never spoke about politics while he was living in Chartres. But then he left without explanation. "We haven't seen him since 2013," Mr. Ben Ayad said.

Mr. Mostefai's identity was made public by Chartres Mayor Jean-Pierre Gorges, who went public with his fury at the Paris attacks and claimed there were others like Mr. Mostefai within Chartres. "How many deaths will occur before our political leaders understand and take action?" he wrote on his Facebook page. "I am torn between emotion, misunderstanding and anger."

With a report from Associated Press