PARIS, Nov 14 2015 : 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 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. – Reuters