Francois Hollande: Paris attacks were ISIL ‘act of war’ – USA TODAY

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Francois Hollande: Paris attacks were ISIL ‘act of war’

PARIS — Terror tactics that have become all too familiar in the Middle East hit the French capital Friday in multiple attacks that employed seven suicide bombs and left scores of people dead.

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More than 100 people were killed in a mass hostage-taking at a Paris concert hall Friday and many more were feared dead in a series of bombings and shootings, as France declared a national state of emergency.
Video provided by AFP
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PARIS — The Islamic State claimed responsibility Saturday for a “blessed battle” of revenge in the killing of at least 127 people in multiple terror attacks. French President Francois Hollande called the murder spree “an act of war.”

Putting his nation’s security at its highest level, Hollande vowed to hit back against the militants and declared three days of national mourning.

Speaking after an emergency security meeting, Hollande said Friday’s attacks were “committed by a terrorist army, the Islamic State group, a jihadist army, against France, against the values that we defend everywhere in the world, against what we are: A free country that means something to the whole planet.”

“France will be pitiless concerning the barbarity of Daesh,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for the militants, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

France is bombing ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq as part of a U.S.-led coalition.

In a further move to tighten security, French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve authorized local authorities to impose curfews if needed and said in a televised address Saturday that authorities are also banning all public demonstrations until Thursday. Hollande earlier declared a state of emergency and ordered 1,500 extra troops to guard buildings and schools.

Paris streets were largely empty, with theaters, cafes and some Metro stations closed. Major tourist sites, like the Eiffel Tower, were closed indefinitely.At least a dozen scheduled concerts, including a performance by the Irish rock group U2, were canceled in Paris.

Rights of assembly have been restricted by the government until Thursday. On Saturday, police tried to disburse small crowds gathering for a peacefully rally at the Place de la République, site of an enormous gathering following the terrorist attack on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in January.

Many Parisians reached out to fellow citizens during the crisis. Some used the hashtag #porteouverte (open door) on Twitter to offer a safe place to go. Many taxi drivers turned off their meters and gave passengers a free ride, according to the French media. Parisians also flooded into blood donation sites, overwhelming many of the centers, The New York Times reports, quoting officials.

French police were hunting Saturday for possible accomplices to eight terrorists who carried out the attacks at six sites in the city, employing seven suicide bombs. At the Bataclan concert hall, where terrorists triggered explosives and fired shots during a performance by the California rock band Eagles of Death Metal, police said the bodies of more than 110 victims remained inside. Other victims were killed at a stadium and at cafes.

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Le Monde journalist Daniel Psenny filmed the injured who tried to escape the Bataclan concert venue. (Editors note: USA TODAY does not regularly show graphic images, however the news value of this particular video outweighs such considerations.)
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One bomber, identified by his fingerprints, was identified as a young Frenchman previously linked to Islamic extremism, according to the Associated Press and  the French newspaper Liberation.

An Egyptian passport and Syrian passport were found on the bodies two of the attackers at the stadium, according to the French newspaper. Liberation, quoting a spokesperson for the Greek government, reports that the Syrian passport belonged to a migrant who passed through Greece, said the Greek government.

In Belgium, the justice minister said a “number of” arrests have been made in Brussels related to the Paris attacks, the Associated Press reports. RTBF-TV reports that at least man was arrested in the Brussels municipality of Molenbeek. In addition, Le Figaro quotes police as saying that witnesses reported that assailants were driving in a car with Belgian plates.

According to the BBC in Arabic, Belgian police were looking for three men in a black car with a Belgian plates. Several witnesses in Paris reportedly told police that a Belgium-registered car was used by some of the attackers. Parking tickets from Molenbeek were also allegedly found in one car used by the Paris terrorists.

The Islamic State’s propaganda arm released statements in Arabic and French claiming responsibility for the attacks in Paris. It called the “blessed battle” an act of revenge for French involvement in the U.S.-led coalition against ISIL, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors and analyzes terrorist groups.

ISIL, also known as ISIS, later issued an English-language audio message delivered by an announcer with an American accent. “A group of believers from the soldiers of the Caliphate set out targeting the capital of prostitution and vice, the lead carrier of the cross in Europe, Paris,” he said.

The statement said eight “brothers” were armed with assault rifles and wore explosives belts that they detonated when they ran out of ammunition.

The statement said the targets around Paris were “precisely chosen,” describing the rock concert by a American group at the Bataclan as “hundreds of pagans gathered for a concert of prostitution and vice.”

“Allah granted victory upon their hands and cast terror into the hearts of the crusaders in their very own homeland,” the statement said.

Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre, a spokeswoman for the Paris prosecutor’s office, told the Associated Press early Saturday that eight terrorists died in the attacks, seven of them in suicide bombings. The eighth was killed by security forces when they raided the concert hall. She added that it’s possible that terrorists tied to the attacks remain at large.

Investigators are searching for information about the attackers. No information has been released about them, including their nationalities.

German media reported Saturday that a 51-year-old man arrested last week after firearms, explosives and hand grenades were found in his car near the border between Germany and Austria has been linked to the Paris attacks, Ludwig Waldinger, a spokesman for  Bavarian state police, told the AP. “He has refused to say what he planned to do or where the weapons came from,” Waldinger said. “We are providing no further information at this point.”

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Far away from the horrors of the Paris terrorist attack, people in Los Angeles express their support and prayers for Parisians affected by the attacks.
USA TODAY

In addition to the scores of victims at the concert venue, at least 11 died in a Paris restaurant in the 10th arrondissement and the AP said that three suicide bombs went off outside the national stadium, where Hollande was among the spectators at an exhibition soccer match between the French and German nationals teams.

Mark Toner, a spokesperson for the‎ U.S. State Department, confirmed that some Americans are among the injured, but did not elaborate. “The‎ United States Embassy in Paris is working round the clock to assist American citizens affected by this tragedy,” Toner said in a statement.

In one of the most shocking glimpses into the night of horror, Le Monde on Saturday posted video shot from an apartment balcony that shows dozens of people fleeing gunfire outside the Bataclan concert hall down a passageway to a side street.

At least one person is shown writhing on the ground as scores more stream past, some of them bloodied or limping. The camera pans down the street to reveal more fleeing people dragging two bodies along the ground, leaving a trail of blood.. A woman and two others can be seen clinging to upper-floor balcony railings in a desperate attempt to stay out of the line of fire.

Le Monde said its reporter, Daniel Psenny, who filmed the scene from his apartment balcony, was shot in the arm after he stopped filming, when he went downstairs to help someone in the alley.

It was the bloodiest day for France since World War II and comes just 11 months after 16 people were killed in terror attacks on the Paris offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery store. A police officer was also shot dead by a militant between those attacks.

“Once again we are under attack,” Hollande said in a national television address. “The terrorists want to scare us and instill fear,” he said. “There are reasons to be afraid, but the nation knows how to defend itself and mobilize its forces and how to defeat the terrorists.”

Near the Bataclan concert hall, at the Best Western Saint Martin Bastille, receptionist Samir Bedi said hotel guests rushed into his lobby as the attacks began. They saw a man in a ski mask in the street, heard gunshots and ran away, he said.

“I stayed calm,” said Bedi. “I wanted to protect the clients, so I took them to shelter — the downstairs restaurant.”

In the restaurant, they read the news on their smartphones and realized a terror attack was taking place. They hunkered down and, like many Parisians, remained glued to the news for much of the night.

Fateh Kimouche, 38, founder of the prominent muslim blog Al Kanz, called for a “united front against terrorists.” But he also expressed concern about a backlash against Muslims. “The Muslim community is in mourning like the rest of the French, but also in the anxiety of retaliation,” Kimouche said.

Airports in Europe were on heightened alert. The north terminal of Gatwick Airport, near London, was evacuated Saturday after police said a man discarded a suspicious object there. A bomb disposal team was sent to investigate.

Leaders around the world expressed their condemnation of the Paris attacks.

In Washington, President Obama called the assaults an “attack on all humanity and the universal values we all share.” He added it was a “heartbreaking situation” and said he did not want to speculate about who may be responsible for the tragedy.

Obama called Hollande to offer his condolences and to restate “the United States’ steadfast, unwavering support for the people of France” whom he called “our oldest ally and friend.” The leaders promised to work together to defeat the “scourge of terrorism.”

In Vienna, for scheduled multilateral talks on the Syrian conflict, Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to reporters in French and English to condemn the Paris attacks.

“The U.S. stands with France and the rest of the world to eliminate the source of violent terrorists from the face of the earth,” he said. “Make no mistake, that resolve has only grown stronger in the wake of this unspeakable brutality.”

In London, following an emergency meeting with ministers and security officials Saturday, Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron said: “We must be prepared for a number of British casualties and we’re doing all we can to help those caught up in the attack.” He said the threat level to Britain is severe, meaning an attack is highly likely.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron expressed their shock.

In a statement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “Israel stands shoulder to shoulder with French President Francois Hollande and with the people of France in our common battle against terrorism.”

Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency reported that in a message to Hollande, President Hassan Rouhani strongly condemned the attacks “on behalf of the Iranian nation who are victims of the evil phenomenon of terrorism.”

Rouhani postponed trips to Italy and France that were due to begin Saturday, the news agency reported.

Syrian President Bashar Assad said Saturday that the policies of some Western countries — including France — in the Middle East are partly responsible for the expansion of terrorism. He urged Hollande to change his policies and “work for the interest of the French people.”

Assad said his country warned three years ago what would happen in Europe if the West continued to support “terrorists” in Syria. Assad describes all armed factions in Syria as “terrorists,” including rebel groups fighting his government.

Contributing: Stanglin and William Cummings reported from McLean, Va., and Jane Onyanga-Omara from London.

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  • How should the U.S. respond to the Paris attacks?
  • Hollande says France closing borders after attacks
  • Obama: Attack on Paris is 'attack on all humanity'
  • Raw: French Police say Paris shootout, explosion
  • AP Photographer Describes Scene Inside Stadium
  • Raw: Numerous Dead in Paris Attacks

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