128 massacred, 200 injured in bloodiest attacks across Paris

* France blames IS, vows to hit back

General view of the scene with rescue service personnel working near covered bodies outside a restaurant following terror attacks in Paris. (UNI)
General view of the scene with rescue service personnel working near covered bodies outside a restaurant following terror attacks in Paris. (UNI)

PARIS, Nov 14:
France was in a nationwide state of emergency today after a night of horror in Paris when gunmen sprayed restaurants with bullets, massacred scores of concert- goers and launched suicide attacks near the national stadium, killing at least 128 people.
At least eight militants, all wearing suicide vests, brought unprecedented violence to the streets of the French capital, in the bloodiest attacks in Europe since the Madrid train bombings in 2004.
Armed with AK47s and shouting “Allahu Akbar”, four of the group marched into a rock concert at the Bataclan venue in eastern Paris, murdering at least 82 people and taking dozens hostage.
“They didn’t stop firing. There was blood everywhere, corpses everywhere. Everyone was trying to flee,” said Pierre Janaszak, a radio presenter who was at the concert by US rock band Eagles of Death Metal.
Hinting at their motives, the gunmen were overheard raging at French President Francois Hollande and his military interventions in the Syrian civil war against the Islamic State group.
“I clearly heard them say ‘It’s the fault of Hollande, it’s the fault of your President, he should not have intervened in Syria’,” he added.
Suspicion immediately fell on Islamic State jihadists, or Al-Qaeda and its affiliates, as the likely perpetrators of the coordinated assault which left at least 128 people dead and 200 injured across six locations.
Investigators said at least eight attackers were dead by the end of last night’s violence.
More than 500 French fighters are thought to be with Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, according to official figures, while 250 have returned and some 750 expressed a desire to go.
In January, 17 people were killed in Paris in attacks that targeted satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket. Another disaster was narrowly averted in August when a gunman was overpowered on a packed high-speed train in northern France.
As a precaution, all sports events were cancelled today in Paris, while access to public facilities such as museums and swimming pools was restricted.
The President himself was caught up in the carnage and had to be hastily evacuated from the national Stade de France stadium when suicide bombers struck outside during a friendly football international between France and Germany.
At first, very few of the crowd appeared to be aware of the significance of what was happening despite the appearance of helicopters low in the sky. The match continued as other attacks began around the capital.
The worst of the bloodshed occurred at the Bataclan music venue in the trendy 11th arrondissement where more than 1,000 rock fans were at a sell-out show for the Eagles of Death Metal band.
Four gunmen wearing suicide vests and armed with automatic weapons stormed the venue and began spraying the crowd with bullets.
As screams rang out and survivors ran over the injured or dead to make their ways to the exits or places to hide, the militants took hostages and then began executing them.
“We heard people screaming – the hostages particularly – and the threats from the kidnappers,” added another survivor, 34-year-old Charles.
Along with around 20 others, he fled to a toilet where he pushed through the ceiling and hid in the crawl space.
Three of the militants blew up their explosive vests as elite anti-terror police raided the venues around 1230 am (0500 IST), while a fourth was shot dead.
Another attacker blew himself up in nearby Boulevard Voltaire, as the streets were filled with the sound of police sirens and convoys of ambulances shipping hundreds of injured to hospital.
Several restaurants near the concert hall were also targeted, including a popular Cambodian eatery in the trendy Canal St. Martin area, whose bars and restaurants heave with the young and affluent on a typical Friday night.
An extra 1,500 soldiers were mobilised to reinforce police in Paris, Hollande’s office said, with the city still recovering from the psychological wounds inflicted by the Charlie Hebdo attack.
Meanwhile, French President Francois Hollande blamed the Islamic State group for orchestrating the deadliest attacks inflicted on France since World War II and vowed to strike back without mercy at what he called “an act of war”.
Speaking after an emergency security meeting to plan his government’s response, Hollande declared three days of national mourning and raised the nation’s security to its highest level.
Hollande blamed the carnage on what he called “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”.
As he spoke, French anti-terror police worked to identify potential accomplices to the attackers known to have committed the attacks.
World leaders united in sympathy and indignation, New York police increased security measures, and people worldwide reached out to friends and loved ones in France.
The violence raised questions about security for the millions of tourists who come to Paris and for world events routinely hosted in the normally luminous capital, where troops were deployed to support police trying to restore order.
One of Europe’s most heavily visited tourist attractions, the Disneyland theme park east of the capital, announced it would not open for business today, a rarity.
Prosecutor’s office spokeswoman Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre said authorities couldn’t rule out the possibility that other militants involved in the attack remained at large.
Hollande said France – which is already bombing IS targets in Syria and Iraq as part of the US-led coalition, and has troops fighting militants in Africa – “will be merciless toward the barbarians of Islamic State group.”
“It’s an act of war that was prepared, organised, planned from abroad, with internal help,” he said.
Reflecting fears in other European capitals of the risk of coordinated or copycat attacks, the British Government scheduled its own emergency COBRA intelligence committee overseen by Prime Minister David Cameron. Italy said it, too, was raising security levels on borders and major public places. (Agencies)

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