Islamic state claims Paris attack that killed 127
Paris, November 14
Islamic State claimed responsibility today for a coordinated assault by gunmen and bombers that killed 127 people at locations across Paris that 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 today 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 US-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 organised 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, US 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 US-led bombing raids against them. “As long as you keep bombing you will not live in peace. You will even fear travelling 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.
After being whisked from the stadium near the blasts, Hollande declared a national state of emergency, the first since World War Two. Border controls were temporarily reimposed to stop perpetrators escaping.
Local sports events were suspended, the rock band U2 cancelled a concert, the Paris metro railway was closed and schools, universities and municipal buildings were ordered to stay shut today.
French newspapers spoke of “carnage” and “horror”. Le Figaro’s headline said: “War in the heart of Paris” on a black background with a picture of people on stretchers.
Emergency services were mobilised, police leave was cancelled, 1,500 army reinforcements were drafted into the Paris region and hospitals recalled staff to cope with the casualties. Radio stations warned Parisians to stay at home and urged residents to give shelter to anyone caught out in the street.
The deadliest attack was on the Bataclan, a popular concert venue where the Californian rock group Eagles of Death Metal was performing. The hall is near the former offices of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, target of a deadly attack by Islamist gunmen in January.
Some witnesses in the hall said they heard the gunmen shout Islamic chants and slogans condemning France’s role in Syria.
France has been on high alert ever since the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper and a kosher supermarket in Paris in January killed 18 people. Those attacks briefly united France in defence of freedom of speech, with a mass demonstration of more than a million people.
But that unity has since broken down, with far-right populist Marine Le Pen gaining on both mainstream parties by blaming immigration and Islam for France’s security problems.
It was not clear what political impact the latest attacks would have less than a month before regional elections in which Le Pen’s National Front is set to make further advances.
US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel led a global chorus of solidarity with France. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the “despicable attacks” while Pope Francis called the killings “inhuman”.