Explosions, gunfire rock Paris; scores die

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2015/11/13/explosions-gunfire-rock-paris-at-least-26-dead/

PARIS — Scores of people died in what French President Francois Hollande described a series of unprecedented terrorist attacks around Paris Friday, Reuters reported. CNN reported the death toll had risen to 149, including 112 at a theater where hostages were taken, citing the French Interior Ministry.

A police assault ended the hostage-taking at the Bataclan, a Paris concert venue where people were randomly slaughtered by the attackers, according to the Associated Press. It said at least two attackers were killed, but not before tossing explosives at the hostages.

One police official described “carnage” inside the building. Authorities brought at least 100 hostages out of the Bataclan, though some were injured, Reuters reported.

The violence is the deadliest in France in decades, AP reported. Hollande went on national television to declare a state of emergency and announce he was closing the country’s borders. He said the nation would stand firm and united against the attackers.

“It’s a horror,” Hollande said.

At the Bataclan, shooting began during a rock concert featuring a California band, Eagles of Death Metal, Reuters reported, citing BFM TV. It said the incident began an hour into the show when one or two individuals came in and began firing weapons into the air.

A French radio reporter told CNN that three “terrorists” entered the theater, where he was in the audience. He said they were dressed in black and said nothing as they randomly shot people. He said he saw at least 20 people either dead or wounded before he managed to get out, but that friends of his remained hiding inside.

Two explosions were heard outside the Stade de France stadium north of the capital city during a France-Germany friendly soccer match. A police official confirmed one explosion in a bar near the stadium. TF1 television said up to 35 people were dead near the soccer stadium, including two suspected suicide bombers in the neighborhood of Saint Denis.

An Associated Press reporter in the stadium heard two explosions loud enough to penetrate the sounds of cheering fans. Sirens were immediately heard, and a helicopter was circling overhead. The game continued but after it ended, fans were kept from leaving for security reasons, Reuters reported.

Paris Deputy Mayor Patrick Klugman told CNN that Hollande was evacuated at halftime of the France-Germany soccer match. Hollande, Prime Minister Manuel Valls and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve held a crisis meeting to address the attacks, CNN reported, citing BFMTV. Police told CNN that weapons used by the perpetrators of the shooting attacks included AK-47 automatic assault rifles.

“We know where these attacks come from,” Hollande said, without naming any individual group, Reuters reported. “There are indeed good reasons to be afraid.”

Eleven people were killed in a Paris restaurant in the 10th arrondissement, the police officials told AP. Both spoke on condition of remaining unidentified.

In the U.S., Homeland Security Department officials told the CNBC cable TV network that there is no known threat to the U.S.

President Barack Obama called the Paris attacks an “outrageous attempt to terrorize innocent civilians” and vowed to do whatever it takes to help bring the perpetrators to justice, in remarks to reporters at the White House. Obama said he would not speculate about who was responsible.

Obama called the killing a “heartbreaking situation” and an “attack on all of humanity.” The president was briefed  Friday by his counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco.

The attacks came as Obama prepared for two trips abroad. He’s slated to leave Saturday for a nine-day visit to Turkey, the Philippines and Malaysia. He due to travel to Paris for climate change talks at the end of the month.

Although no one has claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks, some terrorism experts say the Islamic State group is likely responsible, the Associated Press reported.

The extremist group is clearly the name at the top of everyone’s list, Brian Michael Jenkins, a terrorism expert and senior adviser to the president of RAND Corp., told AP. He said this was because the tactic used — “multiple attackers in coordinated attacks at multiple locations” — echoed recommendations published in extremist group’s online magazine.

James Woolsey, a former director of the CIA in 1993-195 and now chancellor at the Institute of World Politics, also told the BBC he suspected the Islamic State because the coordinated nature of the attacks required government-style planning.

In Boston, former Police Chief Ed Davis, who led the city’s response to the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, told WBZ-TV that the attacks had all the earmarks of terrorism.

Now a security analyst for the CBS affiliate, Davis said the attacks are likely a continuation of the war against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. “There’s no question in my mind that this is ISIS,” Davis said.

Massachusetts State Police, saying “there is no intelligence that suggests specific threats” locally, nonetheless beefed up security around the State House and Logan International Airport, according to a statement from the agency. It said officers on patrol were advised to be on heightened alert for suspicious activity after news of the attacks reached Boston.

“Our prayers are with the French people tonight and our thoughts are also with the French law enforcement and counter-terrorism authorities who are working to end this ongoing threat,” the statement said.

The violence occurred 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.

Emilioi Macchio, from Ravenna, Italy, was at the Carillon bar near the restaurant that was targeted, having a beer on the sidewalk 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, which has joined allied forces in fighting militants inside Syria and Iraq, has been on edge since deadly attacks by Islamic extremists in January on satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery that left 20 dead, including the three attackers.

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

The country has seen several smaller-scale attacks or attempts since, including an incident on a high-speed train in August in which American travelers thwarted a heavily armed Islamic radical trying to attack passengers.