French police arrested 12 people in overnight anti-terrorism raids in the Paris region in connection with last week’s attacks in the city, which claimed the lives of 17 people, media reports said Friday. The development comes as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with top officials "to share a big hug with Paris," in a show of solidarity.
The people arrested are suspected to have links to Amedy Coulibaly, the gunman involved in the attack on a kosher supermarket and who claimed allegiance to the Islamic State group, The Associated Press reported. They were also reportedly being held for questioning about providing "possible logistical support,” such as weapons or vehicles, to the Paris attackers, three of whom killed 12 people at the office of French publication Charlie Hebdo.
Local media reports said the raids were conducted in the towns of Montrouge, Grigny, Chatenay-Malabry, Epinay-sur-Seine and Fleury-Merogis.
Meanwhile, the Gare de l'Est train station was reportedly evacuated Friday after a suspicious package was found on the tracks, triggering a bomb threat. A French official reportedly stated that the station was closed “as a precaution” but did not give any other details about the incident.
In Berlin, local police arrested two men -- one of whom was suspected of being the leader of an extremist group of Turkish and Russian nationals -- in a series of anti-terrorism raids in the German capital on Friday morning, according to BBC. The two people were reportedly taken into custody on suspicion of recruiting fighters for ISIS in Syria. About 250 officers, including three SWAT teams, were involved in raids in Berlin, police said, according to NBC News.
A counter-terrorism raid on an Islamist group Thursday night in the eastern Belgian city of Verviers killed two men while several people were arrested. The Belgian government announced that the national threat level had been raised to three -- the second highest on a four-point scale. The suspected Islamist militants were killed after they opened fire on police with automatic weapons. The suspects were allegedly plotting to attack police stations in Belgium, but their plans had no apparent links to the terrorist attacks in France, AP reported.
Last week's attacks in the French capital began after gunmen stormed French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo last Wednesday, killing 10 employees and two police officers. Yemen’s top al Qaeda leader claimed responsibility for the attack on Charlie Hebdo. Three attackers were involved in the incident, one of whom surrendered soon after the attack while two others were killed by police two days after the incident. Brothers Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, who were killed after a massive manhunt, had claimed that they had trained at an al Qaeda camp in Yemen.
Last week's attacks in France also included an attack in the southern Parisian suburb of Montrouge, where a policewoman was killed, and the attack on the kosher market on the eastern edge of Paris, which claimed the lives of four hostages held by Coulibaly.