Nov 14, 2015 9:47 AM
Islamic State claimed responsibility on Saturday for a coordinated assault by gunmen and bombers that killed 127 people at locations across Paris, which President Francois Hollande said amounted to an act of war against France.
In the worst attack, a Paris city hall official said four gunmen systematically slaughtered at least 87 young people at a rock concert at the Bataclan concert hall before anti-terrorist commandos launched an assault on the building. Dozens of survivors were rescued, and bodies were still being recovered on Saturday morning.
Some 40 more people were killed in five other attacks in the Paris region, the official said, including an apparent double suicide bombing outside the Stade de France national stadium, where Hollande and the German foreign minister were watching a friendly soccer international.The assaults came as France, a founder member of the U.S.-led coalition waging air strikes against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, was on high alert for terrorist attacks. It was the worst such attack in Europe since the Madrid train bombings of 2004, in which 191 died. Hollande said the attacks had been organized from abroad by Islamic State with internal help. "Faced with war, the country must take appropriate action," he said after an emergency meeting of security chiefs. He also announced three days of national mourning.
Former president Nicolas Sarkozy added in a statement: “The war we must wage should be total.” During a visit to Vienna, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said "we are witnessing a kind of medieval and modern fascism at the same time."
In its claim of responsibility, Islamic State said the attacks were a response to France's campaign against its fighters. It also distributed an undated video in which a militant said France would not live peacefully as long it took part in U.S.-led bombing raids against them. "As long as you keep bombing you will not live in peace. You will even fear traveling to the market," said a bearded Arabic-speaking militant, flanked by other fighters.
A French government source told Reuters there were 127 dead, 67 in critical condition and 116 wounded. Six attackers blew themselves up and one was shot by police. There may have been an eighth attacker, but this is not confirmed. The attacks, in which automatic weapons and explosives belts were used, lasted 40 minutes.
"The terrorists, the murderers, raked several cafe terraces with machine-gun fire before entering (the concert hall). There were many victims in terrible, atrocious conditions in several places," police prefect Michel Cadot told reporters. French President Francois Hollande vowed a "merciless" response to the deadliest attacks on the country's soil since World War II as ISIS claimed responsibility Saturday for a coordinated assault on Paris.
A state of emergency was declared and France deployed 1,500 troops after a near-simultaneous series of explosions and shootings brought the city to a horrified standstill overnight. The death toll rose to 127 and 200 other people were wounded, officials said.
French police were hunting possible accomplices of eight assailants, who attacked concert-goers, cafe diners and soccer fans in at least six locations in the French capital. Authorities said that seven attackers blew themselves up, while the eighth was killed by police. Speaking early Saturday, Hollande pointed the finger at ISIS for orchestrating the "cowardly" attacks which he described as an "act of war committed by a terrorist army" and organized from abroad. He said France remained "unbreakable," calling for "unity and courage."
Hollande added: "We will work alongside our allies to fight this terrorist menace ... France is strong and even if she is wounded she will get up always and nothing will hold her down, even if we are feeling the grief now ... We will defend ourselves."
Earlier, Hollande vowed to be "merciless" with the nation's foes.
A statement issued by ISIS later claimed responsibility for the attacks, according to global security firm and NBC News analyst Flashpoint Intelligence. ISIS has previously threatened France due to its military operations against the group in Syria and Iraq.
A French official close to the investigation confirmed to NBC News that a Syrian passport was found on one of the attacker's bodies.
The violence came less than a year after deadly attacks on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket drove home the threat of Islamist terrorism here.All museums, schools and libraries in Paris were ordered closed Saturday as investigators searched for clues following the bloodshed. The Eiffel Tower, Louvre museum and nearby Disneyland theme park were also shut.
The Bataclan concert hall in the lively 11th arrondissement was the scene of the night's worst carnage. Dozens of people there, according to the AP, when gunmen opened fire during a sell-out concert by American band Eagles of Death Metal.
The attackers held hundreds of people hostage before blowing themselves up. Footage obtained by Le Monde showed concert-goers hanging from venue's third-floor windows while others ran for their lives out a rear exit.
French police stormed the venue after midnight, rushing wounded to waiting ambulances as sirens wailed.
Sylvain, a 38-year-old concert-goer, collapsed in tears as he recounted the attack to the AP.
"There were shots everywhere, in waves. I lay down on the floor. I saw at least two shooters, but I heard others talk. They cried, 'It's Hollande's fault.' I heard one of the shooters shout, 'Allahu Akbar' ['God is greatest']," he said, speaking on condition that his full name not be used out of concern for his safety.
Several neighborhood bars were transformed into trauma units to treat and receive survivors.
Maurice Mellul, 24, came to lay flowers outside the Bataclan on Saturday morning.
"I'm very sad," he told NBC News. "I have a lot of rage and hatred. We need to continue our lives, we can't stay inside. We must continue, despite tragic events, we must continue our lives to fight this."
The siege of the concert hall came around the same time that three suicide bombers targeted spots near the national soccer stadium as the France played an exhibition game against Germany.
Karl Olive, the mayor of Poissy, was among thousands of spectators at the Stade de France watching the game. He told NBC News he heard an explosion — "it didn't sound like a firecracker, it sounded like a bomb" — but the match continued.
Hollande was also attending the game but was rushed away to deal with the situation. Fans later sang the country's national anthem as they filed out of the stadium.
Meanwhile, gunmen targeted a string of cafes in a trendy neighborhood, which were crowded on an unusually balmy November night. At least 37 people were killed, Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins told Reuters.
French officials shut down the subway and ordered people to remain indoors as the events unfolded, beginning just before 9:30 p.m. local time (3:30 p.m. ET).
However, residents were out in the streets as normal on Saturday.
Parisians offered shelter to anyone caught up in or stranded in the chaos, setting Twitter alight with the hashtag #porteouverte — or "open door." Americans echoed the charity with #StrandedInUS.
President Barack Obama said the violence was an attack on "all of humanity" while Secretary of Defense Ash Carter called it an "assault on our common human dignity."
While federal and local officials said there was no credible or specific intelligence about threats to the U.S., law enforcement agencies were on alert and deployed extra patrols following the Paris attacks.
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