Daesh behind ‘act of war’ on Paris: French president

French President Francois Hollande has announced that Daesh carried out the deadly gun-and-bomb attacks in Paris that left at least 128 people dead Friday night.

Speaking after a high-level security meeting in Paris Saturday, Hollande put the toll at “at least 128 people killed and several wounded”.

According to French police, at least 250 people were injured, 99 of whom remained in critical conditions.

The French president termed the latest Paris attacks, which comes after the deadly Charlie Hebdo attacks in January, as an “act of war”.

“What happened yesterday in Paris and Saint Denis near the stadium of France is an act of war. And to face this war, the country has to take appropriate decisions.

“This is an act of war committed by a terrorist army, Daesh, a jihadist army, against the values that we stand for and what we are: a free country,” he said.

Soon after Hollande’s remarks, Daesh’s claims of responsibility for the attack began to circulate online. In written statements in French and Arabic on websites and social media accounts said to be linked with the group, Daesh claimed that eight assailants armed with explosives and machine guns had carried out the Paris attacks. 

Hinting that the attackers had help from abroad, Hollande said: “It is an act of war prepared, organized and planned from outside and with internal complicities, the investigation will determine it”.

He said that France’s response to the “act of absolute barbarism” will be ruthless.

“France, because it was attacked cowardly, will be ruthless. It will act with all the means within the framework of law, and on all sites, interiors as external, with our allies who are themselves affected by this terrorist threat,” he said.

Hollande also announced three days of national mourning.

“The country is in trouble, I made a decree to extend the national mourning for three days. Under the state of emergency, the police and army were mobilized, and I salute their courage,” he said.

Earlier on Friday, the French President announced a state of emergency across the country; all borders will be closed.

Meanwhile, Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins said on Saturday morning that the gun-and-bomb attacks took place at six different sites in Paris, adding that “the death toll at the six sites will exceed 120”.

“As many as five terrorists may have been killed,” he said, although it remained unclear exactly how many assailants took part and how many remained on the loose.

Earlier, Molins said that there were “scores of deaths” at the Stade de France, “18 were killed in rue de Charonne, one in Boulevard Voltaire, five in rue de la Fontaine au Roi, 14 in rue Alibert, outside “Le Carillon” cafe.”

According to Molins, three loud explosions were heard outside France’s national stadium, Stade de France, during the first half of a friendly international football match between France and Germany Friday night.

At least one of the two explosions in Rue Jules-Rimet near the stadium was a suicide bomb attack. Hollande, who was watching the game, was immediately evacuated.

The match eventually ended and the stadium was calmly evacuated afterwards.

At the Rue de Charonne, Rue Bichat and Rue de la Fontaine au Roi, attackers with automatic rifles targeted the terrace of the Casa Nostra pizzeria.

At Boulevard Voltaire, one of the attackers exploded his suicide vest near the Bataclan.

The heaviest death toll was at the Bataclan concert hall where 1,500 people attended a rock concert by the American band, Eagles of Death Metal. Four of the attackers were killed after police stormed in; three assailants detonated their suicide vests and a fourth shot dead by police.

“No police officer has been killed in the assault … however, one officer was injured,” the Interior Ministry said.

Hollande earlier said France “will not be afraid” in the face of terrorism. The French leader had used a television address earlier to announce a state of emergency across the country; all borders will be closed.

He also cancelled a planned trip to Turkey where he would have taken part in the upcoming G20 summit.

Need for international coordination

The head of French diplomacy, Laurent Fabius, said on Saturday that “[it] is more necessary than ever in the current circumstances to coordinate the international fight against terrorism.

“And one of the aims of the meeting today in Vienna is exactly to see concretely how we can further increase the international coordination in the struggle against Daesh,” Fabius told reports in Vienna, prior to the opening of an international meeting on Syria.

“International action by France will continue,” he added.

A total of 1,500 French troops have been deployed in various parts of the capital, which remains tense.

Earlier, the French Interior Ministry launched a website to send testimonies and report missing people. Internet users launched an online campaign with the hashtag #rechercheParis (searchParis) in a bid to locate missing friends and family members.

Hospitals across Paris are sending appeals for blood donors for treatment of injured people.

Police have banned all demonstrations in the Paris region until Thursday. Paris police chief Michel Cadot has said, as authorities cannot “provide security for specific marches or gatherings”.

Disneyland Paris was closed, and the city council is in meeting to decide if all shops in Paris need to be closed at least for Saturday.

The November 13th Paris attacks are said to be the worst on European soils since the Madrid train bombings of 2004, in which 191 died.

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