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Hollande vows to defeat IS after "act of war"

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Islamic State jihadists have claimed a series of coordinated attacks by gunmen and suicide bombers in Paris that killed at least 128 people in scenes of carnage at a concert hall, restaurants and the national stadium.

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French President Francois Hollande also blamed the Islamic extremist group for the bloodshed and called the coordinated assault on Friday night at six different sites an “act of war”.

The discovery of a Syrian passport near the body of one of the attackers fuelled fears over the threat posed to Europe by extremism in the Middle East.

The attacks were “prepared, organised and planned overseas, with help from inside (France) which the investigation will establish,” Hollande said overnight.

The streets of the French capital were eerily quiet on Saturday, as authorities declared a state of national emergency following the worst attacks in Europe since the 2004 Madrid train bombings.

While many locals and tourists stayed indoors out of fear, hundreds gathered spontaneously at blood donation centres. At the spots where lives had been lost only hours before, well-wishers passed to place flowers and candles.

Shocked survivors told how eight militants, all wearing suicide vests, had stalked the city on Friday night gunning down people at bars and restaurants indiscriminately at one of the busiest times of the evening.

In the worst of the bloodshed, four men armed with assault rifles and shouting “Allahu akbar” (“God is great!”) stormed into the Bataclan concert venue.

They mowed down dozens of people at a sold-out show by American rock group Eagles of Death Metal before executing hostages one by one, witnesses said.

“They didn’t stop firing. There was blood everywhere, corpses everywhere. Everyone was trying to flee,” Pierre Janaszak, a radio presenter who was at the concert, told AFP.

The gunmen were heard raging at Hollande and his decision in September to begin air strikes on Islamic State jihadists in Syria.

“I clearly heard them say ‘It’s the fault of Hollande, it’s the fault of your president, he should not have intervened in Syria’,” Janaszak added.

Three of the militants blew up their explosive belts as heavily armed anti-terror police ended the siege at around 12.30 am local time, while a fourth was hit by police fire.

Another attacker blew himself up in nearby Boulevard Voltaire.

A police officer who took part in the storming of the building told AFP: “It was horrible inside, a bloodbath, people shot in the head, people who were shot as they were lying on the ground.”

In a statement posted online on Saturday, IS said “eight brothers wearing explosive belts and carrying assault rifles” conducted a “blessed attack on… Crusader France.”

It said the targets of Friday’s attacks “were carefully chosen”.

The current confirmed death toll of 128, revised down from estimates yesterday of at least 158, does not include the eight attackers, the first suicide bombers to strike in France.

The assault also left at least 250 wounded, 100 of them seriously. One Australian is confirmed among the injured.

France has been on high alert since January when jihadist gunmen killed 17 people in Paris in attacks targeting satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket.

Another disaster was narrowly averted in August when a gunman was overpowered on a packed high-speed train in northern France.

No arrests had been made by midday on Saturday. Police were screening hours of CCTV footage of the attack sites and were attempting to identify the body parts of the attackers.

Hollande declared three days of mourning, and in a sign of the nervousness in the capital, sports events were cancelled, many museums were closed and public demonstrations were banned.

[“Faced with dread, there is a nation who knows to defend itself, how to mobilize its forces and, once again, will defeat terrorists.”]

EARLIER:

France closed its borders after a deadly night of terror attacks across Paris.

French President Francois Hollande declared a state of emergency across the country after simultaneous attacks in Paris left well over 100 people dead.

Latest reports say the toll is 158 and rising.

The state of emergency will be “declared across the entire country”, Hollande said, as a hostage-taking continued at a popular music venue in the capital.

epa05023974 A man with blood on his shirt talks on the phone next to the Bataclan where a shooting and a hostage situation took place earlier tonight in Paris, France, 14 November 2015. Dozens of people have been killed in a series of attacks in Paris on 13 November. EPA/ETIENNE LAURENT

A man with blood on his shirt talks on the phone next to the Bataclan.

In a brief statement on television, Hollande also announced the “the closure of national borders”.

The death toll is climbing after shootings and explosions around Paris, many of them in a popular concert hall where 100 patrons were taken hostage, and many apparently executed.

A police official says 11 people have been killed in a Paris restaurant, while many more died elsewhere, primarily in the Bataclan concert hall in eastern Paris.

Also late Friday, two explosions were heard outside the Stade de France stadium north of Paris during a France-Germany friendly football match.

Football fans gather in the field as they wait for security clearance to leave the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, after the friendly football match France vs Germany on November 13, 2015 following shootings and explosions near the stadium and in the French capital. A number of people were killed and others injured in a series of gun attacks across Paris, as well as explosions outside the national stadium where France was hosting Germany. AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFE

Football fans gather in the field as they wait for security clearance to leave the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of Paris.

A police official confirmed one explosion in a bar near the stadium. It was not known if there were casualties.

The attack comes as France has heightened security measures ahead of a major global climate conference that starts in two weeks, out of fear of violent protests and potential terrorist attacks.

One witness said he hear gunshots as he was walking on a street in the 10th district of Paris close to Place de La Republique.

When he arrived outside a restaurant he saw bodies on the ground.

“I saw three bodies being put into body bags,” said Fabien Baron, a student.

Emilioi Macchio, from Ravenna, Italy, was at the Carillon bar near the restaurant that was targeted when the shooting started.

He said he didn’t see any gunmen or victims, but hid behind a corner, then ran away.

“It sounded like fireworks,” he said.

France has been on edge since deadly attacks in January by Islamic extremists on satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery that left 20 dead, including the three attackers.

The restaurant targeted on Friday, Le Carillon, is in the same general neighbourhood as the Charlie Hebdo offices.

So is the Bataclan, among the best-known venues in eastern Paris, near the trendy Oberkampf area known for a vibrant nightlife.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for Friday’s attacks.

France 24 television said President Francois Hollande had been at the Stade de France at the time of the attacks, and was rushed from the area.

He has called a emergency cabinet meeting in Paris.

US security officials believe the series of attacks were likely coordinated, based on initial reports.

“This clearly looks like a coordinated series of attacks,” a person familiar with developing intelligence assessments told Reuters.

– more to come

A French police officer takes cover while on the lookout for the shooters who attacked the restaurant 'Le Petit Cambodge' earlier tonight in Paris, France, 13 November 2015. EPA/ETIENNE LAURENT

A French police officer takes cover while on the lookout for the shooters who attacked the restaurant ‘Le Petit Cambodge’ earlier tonight in Paris, France, 13 November 2015. EPA/ETIENNE LAURENT

PARIS ATTACKS – WHAT WAS SAID:

“People yelled, screamed and everybody lying on the floor, and it lasted for 10 minutes, 10 minutes, 10 horrific minutes where everybody was on the floor covering their head(s). It was a bloodbath.” – Julien Pearce, a reporter for France’s Europe 1 radio station on the attack inside the Bataclan concert hall.

“We heard gunfire, 30 seconds of fire, it was interminable, we thought it was fireworks.” – Pierre Montfort, who lives near rue Bichat, where one of the attacks took place.

“Everyone was on the floor, no one moved.” – A witness from the Petit Cambodge restaurant.

“Faced with terror, France must be strong, it must be great and the state authorities must be firm. We will be.” – French President Francois Hollande

“In these difficult moments, we must – and I’m thinking of the many victims, their families and the injured – show compassion and solidarity. But we must also show unity and calm.” – Hollande.

“For me personally, the game and the sport loses importance. We’re at a loss. We don’t know what to do.” – Germany coach Joachim Loew whose team was playing France at the Stade de France when the attacks occurred.

“We don’t know who has carried out these horrendous attacks on innocent people but it certainly has all the hallmarks of the terrorist attacks we’ve seen in recent times by ISIL, Daesh and similar organisations.” – Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

“Australians in Paris should minimise movement in public places, follow the media for latest information on security and follow the instructions of local authorities.” – DFAT advice.

“Those who think they can terrorise the people of France and the values they stand for are wrong.” – US President Barack Obama.

“Russia strongly condemns this inhumane killing and is ready to provide any and all assistance to investigate these terrorist crimes.” – Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“We are still currently trying to determine the safety and whereabouts of all our band and crew.” – social media statement by rock band Eagles Of Death Metal.

WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR:

– Shootings and explosions at up to seven locations.

– 100 patrons taken hostage in Bataclan concert hall in eastern Paris, many executed.

– 11 people have been killed in a shooting at Le Carillon restaurant, near the Charlie Hebdo offices.

– Five more explosions at the Bataclan concert hall prompted police to storm the venue.

– Two explosions outside the Stade de France stadium during a France-Germany soccer friendly.

– President Francois Hollande who was at the soccer match has declared a state of emergency, closing France’s borders.

– Police confirm one explosion in a bar near the stadium.

– The attack comes amid heightened security measures ahead of the global climate summit in Paris in two weeks’ time.

– France has been on edge since deadly attacks in January by Islamic extremists on satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery left 20 dead.

– No one has yet claimed responsibility for the latest attacks.

– US President Barack Obama has condemned the attacks.

– NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn says vigilance against local terror threats in Australia likely be ramped up.

epa05023962 People light candles in tribute to the victims of the Paris attacks, outside the French embassy in Berlin, Germany, 13 November 2015. Dozens of people have been killed in a series of attacks in Paris on 13 November. EPA/LUKAS SCHULZE

People light candles in tribute to the victims of the Paris attacks, outside the French embassy in Berlin.

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