Skip to main content

Islamic State claims responsibility for Paris attack as death toll hits 129

Co-ordinated attacks on Friday night, the deadliest to hit France since WWII, have left the capital in shock
A woman lays flowers for the dead in Paris (AFP)

France has confirmed that it will continue its “international action" in the wake of the deadliest attacks to hit the country since the Second World War in which at least 129 people were killed. 

Supporters of Islamic State (IS) on Saturday morning circulated a lengthy statement in French claiming to be from the group, saying that France was a "top target". 

The statement claimed that "soldiers of the Caliphate" had attacked Paris "to target the capital of abominations and perversion". It went on to claim that the attacks came as a response to insults directed at the Prophet Muhammad as well France's involvement in air strikes targeting Islamic State in Syria.

"This attack is just the start of a storm and a warning for those who wish to draw lessons," the statement added. 

The attacks happened on Friday evening, when at least eight attackers launched co-ordinated bombings and shootings across Paris. The identities and nationalities of the attackers are not known, although French police announced on Saturday that a Syrian passport had been found near one of the bodies. Greek officials later confirmed that the same passport had been registered by a Syrian refugee on the Greek island of Leros on 3 October. 
Local media also reported that an Egyptian passport was found near the body of one of the men. At least six sites in the French capital were hit, with gunmen opening fire at a rock concert and in restaurants. Three explosions went off near the Stade de France, which was hosting a football match between France and  Germany attended by President Hollande. Eight of the attackers have been killed, with some reports indicating that one attacker may still be on the loose. 
“We were in Stade de France watching the game, the atmosphere was great, and we heard at some point an explosion outside which surprised the public the game continued calmly, but then we heard a second explosion,” a spectator Christian Mary told Middle East Eye. 

"I took military service when I was young, so I realised it was not mere explosions. We did not get information from the authorities, and it was only at the end of the game that we saw on the big screens that there was an 'incident' outside of the stadium."

More than 300 people were still in hospital on Saturday afternoon, many of them in critical condition, as locals queued round the block, and in some places were turned away, as they waited to donate blood.

The attack has sent shockwaves through the country, prompting President Francois Hollande to vow swift retaliation. 

"What happened yesterday in Paris and Saint Denis [in the northern suburbs of Paris] is an act of war, and faced with war, a country must make the appropriate decisions," Hollande said. "An act committed by a terrorist army Daesh [Islamic State], against that which we are, a free country who speaks to the whole world, is an act of war. [It was] prepared, planned, from the outside, with outside accomplices, which our investigation will uncover. [This is] an act of absolute barbarism."

Thee days of national mourning for the dead have now been declared, and a minute's silence will be observed on Monday. However, interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve stressed that schools would be open across the country on Monday.
Cazeneuve told reporters on Saturday afternoon that 1,500 soldiers would be tasked with patrolling the streets of the capital.

Hollande has pledged that France would be "pitiless in face of the barbarians of Daesh [IS]. In this period which is so painful and so decisive for our country, I appeal for unity, coming together, and I will address the parliament convened in congress at Versailles on Monday."

France "is strong: even if it can be wounded, it will always rise up again. Nothing can extinguish it," he added. 

The worst scenes were witnessed at the Bataclan concert venue in the 11th arrondisement of Paris, where at least 87 people were killed when gunmen opened fire at a rock concert.

The mass shooting at the venue, which has a capacity of 1,500 and was sold out on Friday night, was followed by a hostage crisis that ended when police stormed the building.

Witnesses reported that three attackers detonated explosive belts when security forces entered the venue.

Translation: One of my friends was inside the Bataclan. He survived by lying down with his face in his dead neighbour's blood

One man who was at the Bataclan told French television France2 that he had been shot in the arm as he tried to rescue an injured person who was lying on the floor.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Saturday morning that France would continue its “international action” despite the attacks, stressing that it is "more necessary than ever" to improve international co-ordination in the fight against violent extremism.

The US was among the first to pledge its support to what President Baarack Obama called Washington's "oldest ally," with other powers quick to follow suit.

"It's an attack not just on the people of France. But this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values we share,” Obama said.

"We are reminded in this time of tragedy that the bonds of liberte, egalite, fraternite are not just the values French people share, but we share. Those go far beyond any act of terrorism or the hateful vision of those who perpetrated the crimes this evening." 

France is a member of a US-led coalition launching airstrikes against Islamic State positions in Syria.

Russia, which supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and is leading its own campaign of air strikes in Syria - one that has hit various rebel groups opposed to Assad - said that the bloody Paris attacks "justify" taking further action against militants in Syria.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the attacks showed action was needed to combat Islamic State as well as other groups such as al-Nusra Front, the Syrian affiliate of al-Qaeda.

The European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said that the attacks gave new meaning to global efforts to solve the war in Syria.

Some 20 countries and world bodies are meeting in Vienna in a bid to end the nearly five-year conflict in which 250,000 dead have been killed. 

"It's another sad day, and the meeting we are having in Vienna today is taking another kind of meaning," said Mogherini as she arrived for the meeting.

"The countries sitting around the table have almost all experienced the same pain, the same terror, the same shock over the last weeks," she said, referring to Paris, Lebanon, Russia, Egypt, Turkey.

Public demonstrations have been banned in parts Paris until Thursday on security grounds, the police said in a statement.