President Obama said today that there was “nothing specific” in America’s intelligence gathering that could have predicted the horrific terrorist attack in Paris, while Iraqi officials claim that their intelligence service tried to sound the alarm just 24 hours before the tragedy unfolded.
“Every day we have threat streams coming through the intelligence transit... and the concerns about potential ISIL [ISIS] attacks in the West have been there for over a year now, and they come through periodically,” the president said at the G20 summit in Antalya, Turkey. “There were no specific mentions of this particular attack that would give us a sense of something that we could provide French authorities, for example, or act on ourselves.”
Late Sunday Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al Jaafari told reporters that Iraqi intelligence had learned that “some countries, in particular France, would be targeted by ISIS.” Jaafari said Iraq notified both the U.S. and Iran about the threat. The same day The Associated Press reported that a day before the attack in Paris, senior Iraqi intelligence officials warned “members of the U.S.-led coalition” about an imminent assault, and four officials said they warned France specifically.
An Iraqi intelligence dispatch reported that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had ordered “all members” to launch an “international attack that includes all coalition countries, in addition to Iran and the Russian Federation.”
“We do not have information on the date and place for implementing these terrorist operations at the time,” the dispatch read, according to an updated version of the AP story.
The Iraqis also claimed that the Paris attack was planned in ISIS's stronghold in Raqqa, Syria and carried out by 24 people: 19 attackers and five logistics specialists – a much larger team than European authorities said they believe were responsible for the attack.
A spokesperson for the Iraq Embassy in Washington, D.C. confirmed to ABC News Sunday the broad strokes of the original AP report.
The CIA declined to comment to ABC News on the alleged Iraq warnings, but a senior French intelligence officer echoed Obama’s sentiments, telling the AP that French intelligence receives unspecific threat streams like the Iraqi dispatch “all the time,” “every day.”
President Obama said, “Typically, the way the intelligence works is there will be a threat stream that is from one source – how reliable is that source? – perhaps some signals intelligence gets picked up. It’s evaluated. Some of it is extremely vague and unspecific and there’s no clear time table. Some of it may be more specific and folks chase down that threat to see what happens.”
“I’m not aware of anything that was specific in the sense that would’ve given a premonition about a particular action in Paris that would allow for law enforcement or military actions to disrupt,” he said.
Turkey also claims it twice warned France about Omar Ismail Mostefai, one of the gunmen who participated in the Paris attacks, as early as last October, according to a report by Turkey’s state news agency and confirmed to ABC News by the Turkish Prime Minister’s office. A Turkish security official quoted by Turkey’s Anadolu Agency said that France did not respond to either warning.
France is mourning the deaths of at least 129 people and is desperately hunting for anyone who may have been connected to the seven suicide bombers and gunmen who attacked six different locations Friday. Officials announced today that two men arrested in Belgium have been charged with terrorism-related crimes and another is being sought in an international manhunt.