At least 120 people were killed in Paris in Europe’s worst terrorist attacks for more than a decade and France tightened border controls and shut down public venues after gunmen targeted hostages at a rock concert and diners at a restaurant.
President Francois Hollande imposed a state of alert and police advised people to stay indoors. Officials said attacks occurred at seven separate venues, including the stadium. Prosecutors said five of the attackers were killed, and French police said they couldn’t say how many were still at large. BFM television said security forces were still seeking one gunman.
As news of the attacks spread across the French capital, people huddled in quiet shock outside bars and cafes as the streets filled with the sound of sirens. Outside the concert venue, local media showed images of bodies shrouded in white lined up on the streets.
In some of the latest developments:
Police stormed a Paris theater where hostages were being held at a rock concert; four gunmen were killed. Attackers shouted ‘Allahu Akbar,’ according to local media
A U.S. counterterrorism official said the attack points to enhanced capacity of jihadist groups as the Syrian civil war escalates
Hollande, who visited venue, told the nation in a televised address that “we must, in these difficult moments, show compassion and solidarity, but we also need to show unity and cool-headedness.”
France shut down all public venues Saturday, from museums to swimming pools, and police advised Parisians to stay indoors
Hollande said he’ll skip the G-20 meeting of the world’s biggest economies starting this weekend in Turkey, and will convene his defense cabinet Saturday morning
An additional 1,500 French troops were deployed in central Paris
President Barack Obama and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron expressed solidarity and offered any help needed
American Airlines held up departures to Paris late Friday, ABC TV reported
The slaughter in Paris took place against a backdrop of mounting anxiety in Europe and beyond about jihadist extremism, as refugees from Syria pour into the continent. Seventeen people were killed in January in a rampage by gunmen that started at the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine. Two weeks ago, a Russian passenger jet was downed over Sinai by what U.S. and U.K. intelligence says was probably a bomb. On Thursday, suicide bombers killed more than 40 people in Beirut.
U.S. law enforcement officials are concerned that the attacks demonstrate an enhanced capacity by jihadists, an American counterterrorism official said. If Islamic State is found to have carried out the Paris slaughter and the downing of a Russian airliner over Egypt two weeks ago, that would signal the group has evolved into a more sophisticated terrorist force that can carry out strikes beyond the Middle East, the official said.
Obama told reporters in Washington that Paris, where he’s due to attend a global climate-change summit in less than three weeks, has witnessed “an outrageous attempt to terrorize innocent civilians.” He said the U.S. stands ready to provide any needed assistance to its French ally.
The wave of attacks began earlier Friday when blasts rocked the Stade de France sports arena, where France was playing a soccer game against Germany. Hollande was at the game and was evacuated to the Interior Ministry.
The hostage-taking occurred at the Bataclan theater in the 11th district of Paris, where the U.S. rock band Eagles of Death Metal was performing. There were also shootings outside a restaurant in the 10th district.
As it stands, the death toll would make Friday’s attacks the worst in Europe since the Madrid bombings of March 2004, which killed 191 people.
There’s a strong chance the attacks are related to France’s participation in the fight against extremists in Syria, where it’s joined the U.S.-led campaign, and north Africa, said Thomas M. Sanderson, director of the Transnational Threats Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He said Islamic State and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula are the likeliest suspects.
“Long-standing grievances as well as contemporary activity by France makes them a tier-one target,” Sanderson said. “They’re not the primary actor from the air, we are, but they are much more reachable than the U.S. is.”