Nov 25, 2015 7:00 PM

The Latest: Paris hotel business hit hard by attacks

The Associated Press

BRUSSELS (AP) The latest on the attacks in Paris and security alert in Brussels. All times local:

9:15 p.m.

Occupancy rates at some Paris hotels have plunged by more than 30 percent in the days since the Nov. 13 attacks, according to a company that tracks hotel industry data.

STR Global said that compared with the same dates in 2014, occupancy rates were 39 percent lower last Saturday and 33 percent lower on Sunday, the two most recent days in the STR report.

Restaurants, small shops, department stores and tourist sites have also been affected. The French government said after a Cabinet meeting Wednesday that businesses that had suffered a financial hit could get extensions on tax and loan payments as a means of softening the blow.

France is among the world's top tourist destinations. Several museums in Paris closed in the days after the attacks.


8:45 p.m.

French lawmakers have overwhelmingly voted to continue airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Syria beyond early January.

The parliament's upper house voted 325-0, with 21 abstentions, on Wednesday night to extend the fight against IS. The Islamic militants have claimed responsibility for the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris that killed 130 people and wounded hundreds more.

French fighter jets joined the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State extremists in Iraq in 2014, and expanded their mission to Islamic State targets in Syria in September. French President Francois Hollande has cited specific threats against French interests stemming from IS in Syria.


8:35 p.m.

Chancellor Angela Merkel says Germany will do more in the fight against the Islamic State group, and that her country will do everything it can to prevent attacks such as that in Paris on Nov. 13 from occurring again.

"We are stronger than any terrorism. Nevertheless, terrorism must be fought with all possible force. And here we want to stand by France's side," Merkel said ahead of a working dinner with French President Francois Hollande in Paris.

If the French president asks me to think about what more we can do, then it's our task to think about that and we will act quickly," she said, adding that the Islamic State "can't be convinced with words, it must be fought with military means."

Germany currently provides weapons and training for Kurds fighting against IS in Iraq.


8:05 p.m.

French President Francois Hollande says he would like Germany to do more in the fight against the Islamic State group.

Speaking Wednesday at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Paris, Hollande said it would be a "very good signal" if Germany went further in Iraq and Syria against IS. Germany currently provides weapons and training for Kurds fighting against IS in Iraq.

Merkel said "we want to fight together against terrorism. It's our mission, our duty." She noted, too, that IS can't be "beaten by words."

The two leaders spoke after visiting Paris' Place de la Republique, which has become a tribute site for the 130 people killed in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks claimed by IS.


7:40 p.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is visiting Paris' Place de la Republique, a major square which has become the city's focal point for tributes after the Nov. 13 attacks.

Merkel visited the square together with French President Francois Hollande and Paris city mayor Anne Hidalgo and laid a single white rose at the foot of the column standing in the center of the square.

The French chancellor was in Paris for talks with Hollande, who has been on a diplomatic push to drum up international support for the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria. The group has claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks that killed 130 people and wounded hundreds more.

Hollande was in Washington on Tuesday for talks with Obama. He is to meet with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi Thursday morning before flying to Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.


6:40 p.m.

French President Francois Hollande has asked that the French fly the Tricolor at their homes for Friday's official commemoration ceremony for the Paris attack victims at the Invalides monument.

Hollande said it would be a way for people who cannot attend to pay tribute to the 130 people who lost their lives in the worst attacks in recent times.

Paris' main flag-maker has recorded a 500 percent increase in Tricolor sales since the Nov. 13 attacks, claimed by the Islamic State group.


5:55 p.m.

Regional authorities in Belgium have condemned a 50-euro ($53) a day "danger premium" for bus drivers who head for Brussels as the capital is under a maximum threat alert likely through the weekend.

Regional transport minister Ben Weyts called it "a wrong signal" for a nation trying hard to regain a sense of normalcy after the threat alert was imposed early Saturday.

Some drivers have been scared to go the capital over the past days, as raids have happened on an almost daily basis, and the prime minister said that the threat of an attack was "serious and imminent."

"We put our kids on the bus to school, but the driver gets a danger premium. That is a wrong signal," Weyts told VRT network.


5:40 p.m.

France's lower house of parliament is debating whether to extend airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria after the group claimed responsibility for deadly attacks in Paris.

The government is trying to rally global action against the group.

French fighter jets joined the U.S.-led coalition against IS extremists in Iraq in 2014, and expanded their mission to IS targets in Syria in September. President Francois Hollande cited specific threats against French interests stemming from IS in Syria.

France's National Assembly is debating Wednesday whether to extend the campaign in Syria, and the Senate is scheduled to debate it Wednesday as well. The measure is expected to pass in both houses, amid national concern following the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris.


5:25 p.m.

Rome has received 400 extra police officers and 140 flak jackets for the Vatican's imminent Holy Year, expected to bring huge crowds to churches in the Italian capital.

Rome's police headquarters said Wednesday the extra officers are part of beefed-up security measures for the Holy Year, beginning on Dec. 8 with a ceremony at St. Peter's Basilica. The church initiative could draw up to 33 million pilgrims to Rome before it ends on Nov. 20, 2016.

Separately, Italy's national anti-terrorism prosecutor, Franco Roberti, insisted that the extra police in Rome won't come at the expense of security in other Italian cities.

Helping to free up more police for investigations and surveillance, hundreds of soldiers have also been deployed in Rome after the Nov. 13 Paris attacks.


4:25 p.m.

Brussels soccer team Anderlecht will play its Belgian league match against OHL Leuven behind closed doors because of the highest threat alert applying to the capital.

A day after local authorities forced FC Brugge to play Thursday's Europa League game against Napoli without fans because of the Belgium's second-highest threat applying to the rest of nation, Brussels authorities forced Anderlecht to do likewise next weekend.

Anderlecht general director Herman Van Holsbeek called it "unique for the club, a measure with serious consequences" that would hit the finances of the club.


4:05 p.m.

Italy's national anti-terrorism prosecutor says there's need for a European prosecutor who can direct investigations into where violent extremists get their financing.

Franco Robert, in a speech Wednesday in Italy, said "it's not possible that a country can do everything by itself in the fight against terrorism."

He added: "To combat terrorism, we need tighter cooperation and harmonization of international laws."

Roberti said a European ant-terror prosecutor could coordinate efforts to "fight money-laundering and fiscal paradises because it's there where the problem lurks."

Roberti, who is also Italy's anti-Mafia prosecutor, has used a strategy of going after Italian organized crime's wealth as a way to weaken it.


3:50 p.m.

France's government is offering aid for restaurants, stores and cultural sites suffering a financial hit after the deadly Nov. 13 attacks, which one report said could cost the already stagnant French economy up to 2 billion euros ($2.12 billion).

Businesses suffering from a post-attacks slump can get extensions on tax and loan payments, the government announced after a Cabinet meeting Wednesday.

The government will create a special fund for theaters, and is also concerned about restaurants, small retailers, department stores, hotels and other tourist sites.

Government spokesman Stephane Le Foll said Wednesday he couldn't confirm an RTL radio report that the state treasury estimates the cost of the attacks at 2 billion euros, though he said it "might" be right.

France is among the world's top tourist destinations. Several museums closed in the days after the attacks, which killed 130 people.


12:45 p.m.

Belgian government minister says that the security forces staged a series of raids late Sunday to avoid an imminent attack in Brussels.

Interior Minister Jan Jambon said that "indeed, there were indications that there would be attacks on Sunday evening and they did not materialize."

The minister told VRT network that "otherwise, you don't impose terror level 4," the highest possible level when the threat is assessed as "serious and imminent."

That Sunday, authorities detained 16 people but released all but one the next day. The raids yielded no explosives or firearms and the Paris fugitive Salah Abdeslam remained at large.

Jambon refused to elaborate what kind of attacks the government believed had been planned.


11:45 a.m.

The Belgian government has ordered health and emergency services in Belgium to take special precautionary measures to make sure their services are not infiltrated by violent extremists.

Health Minister Maggie De Block told VRT network that "we have to be sure that we can see everybody has an identification badge."

She says, "When ambulances arrive, we have to see from where they come, who is in it. Really as a precaution."


11:40 a.m.

An influential European Union lawmaker has dismissed criticism that the EU parliament is holding up agreement on airline passenger information which could help prevent attacks in Europe.

It has been held up in the assembly for at least two years over privacy concerns.

Liberal ALDE lawmaker Sophie In't Veld said on Wednesday that the parliament is committed "but commitment does not mean a blank check."

She lamented Europe's "near obsession with electronic mass surveillance," and said that more human intelligence is needed on the ground.

French and Belgian officials say the deal to share data including name, travel itinerary and credit card details would help trace foreign fighters traveling to and from Syria and Iraq.

EU member states want the so-called passenger name record agreement to be adopted next month.


10:20 a.m.

France is deploying additional police and troops to guard about 140 world leaders expected in the Paris region for critical talks on fighting global warming.

The country remains on high alert for possible terrorist attacks after Islamic extremists killed at least 130 people in a rock concert massacre, shootings at Paris cafes and suicide bombings at the national stadium Nov. 13.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Wednesday that France will impose tight road traffic restrictions for the climate conference and maintain controls on its borders, which are normally open to other European countries.

Cazeneuve said the border checks would remain in place as long as the threat level remains high.

He said 120,000 police, gendarmes and soldiers are deployed across the country to assure France's security.

President Barack Obama is among the many leaders expected to arrive starting this weekend for the U.N. climate talks that start Monday.


9:50 a.m.

The brother of a fugitive Paris attack suspect is urging him to surrender to police immediately.

Mohamed Abdeslam said on RTL radio Wednesday that he shares the pain of victims' families and wishes he and his family could have done something to prevent the bloodshed across Paris Nov. 13.

Abdeslam had two brothers involved in the attacks. Brahim Abdeslam blew himself up in front of a Paris cafe, and Salah Abdeslam is believed to have been another potential bomber but escaped the scene. An international warrant is out for his arrest.

"Let him turn himself in for his parents, for justice, for the families of victims, so that we can find out what happened," Mohamed Abdeslam said.

He said he saw his brothers a few days before they left their Brussels suburb for Paris, but had no idea what they were plotting, and hasn't heard from Salah since


9:35 a.m.

As schools reopened in Brussels, dozens of parents hugged and kissed their children before dropping them off at the College Saint-Jean-Bermans. Many were reassured by the police presence including at least one officer with a visible machine gun as the threat alert in the city remains at its highest.

Annelaure Leger, mother of two children, said "I'm not very concerned because if (the government) lets children go to school again, then things must be OK."

She said the closure of schools in Brussels during the previous two days was like an early Christmas for her children. Leger said that since her family lives partly in Paris, the children are very aware of what's happening and that she told them "the police are trying to catch a terrorist so everyone will be safe."


9:30 a.m.

A top European Union official has urged EU leaders to rescue of Europe's passport free area as it comes under threat from extremist attacks and the arrival of hundreds of thousands of migrants.

Visa-free travel in the 30-nation area known as the Schengen zone has been compromised by border closures, increased security and the building of fences in recent months.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told EU lawmakers on Wednesday that "we need those who believe in Europe, in its values, in its principles, and in its freedoms try to reanimate the spirit of Schengen."

Juncker said that "a single currency will have no sense if Schengen falls."

He insisted that extremists and refugees must not be confused, saying that many migrants flee the very same people who attacked Paris on Nov. 13.


08:55 a.m.

Students in Brussels have begun returning to class after a two-day shutdown over fears that a series of simultaneous attacks could be launched around the Belgian capital.

Special measures are being taken at primary and secondary schools plus universities, with student movements limited around or outside school buildings during the day.

Underground transport in Brussels is also slowly starting up again after a four-day closure. Sections of the main metro are in operation, but services are not running to outlying suburbs.

Belgian authorities set the city on maximum alert overnight on Friday amid warnings of an imminent security threat. More than 1,000 security personnel and soldiers have been deployed.


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