Paris attackers known to American intelligence

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WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama says he's taking a wait-and-see approach on whether Russia does more to focus on Islamic State targets in Syria, which the U.S. would "welcome."

Intensified Russian airstrikes Tuesday hit the Islamic State's stronghold of Raqqa, Syria, that is also being pounded by the French after the Paris attacks that killed 129 people.

The airstrikes came after Russia's FSB security service confirmed for the first time that a bomb caused the Oct. 31 crash of a Russian airliner over Egypt's Sinai desert, killing 224 people. The Islamic state had already claimed responsibility.

Russia recently joined an international campaign of airstrikes against the Islamic State. But Obama maintained that Russia had been more focused on targeting moderate opposition groups and propping up Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Obama says he expressed his view to Russian President Vladimir Putin that Russia has been going after the wrong targets. He says the U.S. is "going to wait and see" whether Russia shifts its focus to Islamic State targets "and if it does so that's something we welcome."

Obama commented Wednesday while traveling in the Philippines.

Earlier Tuesday, House members emerging from a closed-door briefing by top U.S. security officials say they were told that some of the Paris attackers were known to American intelligence.

One lawmaker said that of the attackers who have been identified all but one were on a U.S. no-fly list. The legislator did not know how many of the attackers' identities have been established.

This lawmaker also said that since last Friday's attacks, intelligence officials have added another name of a terrorist associated with the attacks to the no-fly list.

The legislators spoke on condition of anonymity to reveal information that was discussed at a classified briefing.

Republican Rep. Mac Thornberry, who is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, wouldn't discuss what was said in the briefing. But he said he understands that some of the terrorists who conducted the attacks were known to U.S. officials.

Individuals on the no-fly list, enforced by the Transportation Security Administration, are banned from boarding an American airline or any flight that enters U.S. territory or U.S. airspace.

The chairman of the U.S. Senate intelligence committee says there's a "strong likelihood" that the Paris attacks were directed, rather than just inspired, by the Islamic State group in Syria.

Senator Richard Burr, a Republican from North Carolina, also said Tuesday it was likely the attack plotters in Syria, Belgium and France used encryption to hide their communications from authorities.

Burr, speaking to reporters after a classified intelligence briefing, said there was no direct evidence of encryption, but that authorities had concluded it was used because they have uncovered no evidence of conversations among the plotters. Such a statement acknowledges the extent to which intelligence agencies are able to monitor records of international phone traffic.

The comments were the strongest public attribution yet by American officials of the Islamic State's role in the Paris attacks. CIA director John Brennan said Monday that the attacks bore "the hallmarks of terrorism carried out" by the Islamic State.

Burr says the Islamic State group has a presence in 30 countries and poses a threat that is harder to handle than the one posed by al-Qaida.

 

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