Saturday, November 14, 2015

Islamic State Claims Paris Attacks, Says France Remains Top Target

Islamic State claims Paris attacks that killed 127 

Islamic State claimed responsibility on Saturday for a coordinated assault by gunmen and bombers that killed 127 people at locations across Paris that President Francois Hollande said amounted to an act of war against France.

In the worst attack, a Paris city hall official said four gunmen systematically slaughtered at least 87 young people at a rock concert at the Bataclan concert hall before anti-terrorist commandos launched an assault on the building. Dozens of survivors were rescued, and bodies were still being recovered on Saturday morning.

Some 40 more people were killed in five other attacks in the Paris region, the official said, including an apparent double suicide bombing outside the Stade de France national stadium, where Hollande and the German foreign minister were watching a friendly soccer international.

The assaults came as France, a founder member of the U.S.-led coalition waging air strikes against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, was on high alert for terrorist attacks.

It was the worst such attack in Europe since the Madrid train bombings of 2004, in which 191 died.

Hollande said the attacks had been organized from abroad by Islamic State with internal help.

"Faced with war, the country must take appropriate action," he said after an emergency meeting of security chiefs. He also announced three days of national mourning.

Former president Nicolas Sarkozy added in a statement: “The war we must wage should be total.”

During a visit to Vienna, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said "we are witnessing a kind of medieval and modern fascism at the same time." 

In its claim of responsibility, Islamic State said the attacks were a response to France's campaign against its fighters.

It also distributed an undated video in which a militant said France would not live peacefully as long it took part in U.S.-led bombing raids against them.

"As long as you keep bombing you will not live in peace. You will even fear traveling to the market," said a bearded Arabic-speaking militant, flanked by other fighters.

A French government source told Reuters there were 127 dead, 67 in critical condition and 116 wounded. Six attackers blew themselves up and one was shot by police. There may have been an eighth attacker, but this is not confirmed.

The attacks, in which automatic weapons and explosives belts were used, lasted 40 minutes.

"The terrorists, the murderers, raked several cafe terraces with machine-gun fire before entering (the concert hall). There were many victims in terrible, atrocious conditions in several places," police prefect Michel Cadot told reporters.

Islamic State claimed responsibility on Saturday for attacks that killed 127 people in Paris, saying it sent militants strapped with suicide bombing belts and carrying machine guns to various locations in the heart of the capital.

The attacks, described by France's president as an act of war, were designed to show the country would remain in danger as long as it continued its current policies, Islamic State said in a statement.

"To teach France, and all nations following its path, that they will remain at the top of Islamic State’s list of targets, and that the smell of death won’t leave their noses as long as they partake in their crusader campaign," said the group.

French President Francois Hollande said the violence was organized from abroad by Islamic State with internal help.

"Faced with war, the country must take appropriate action," he said, without saying what that meant.

The attacks at a stadium, concert hall and cafes and restaurants in northern and eastern Paris were "an act of war committed by Daesh that was prepared, organized and planned from outside (of France)" with help from inside France, Hollande said, using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State.
Earlier on Saturday, Islamic State redistributed a video, that first appeared on the internet a year ago, threatening to attack France if bombings of its fighters continued.

The group's foreign media arm, Al-Hayat Media Centre, made threats through several militants who called on French Muslims to carry out attacks.

"As long as you keep bombing you will not live in peace. You will even fear traveling to the market," said one of the militants, identified as Abu Maryam the Frenchman. 

Hollande said the attacks were "an act of war".
The fighters, who appeared to be French citizens, sat cross-legged in a group wearing fatigues and holding weapons in what appeared to be a wooded area. The video showed the militants burning passports.

"Indeed you have been ordered to fight the infidel wherever you find him – what are you waiting for?," said Abu Maryam.

"Know that jihad in this time is obligatory on all."

Another militant, identified as Abu Salman the Frenchman, said: "There are weapons and cars available and targets ready to be hit. Even poison is available, so poison the water and food of at least one of the enemies of Allah."

"Terrorize them and do not allow them to sleep due to fear and horror," he added.

Foreign fighters who join Islamic State, the group which controls large swathes of Iraq and Syria, are seen as especially dangerous because Western passports enable them to live in and travel to Western countries undetected.

Another militant in the video, identified as Abu Osama the Frenchman, appealed to Muslims living in France to head to Syria to wage jihad, in "a message from your French brothers".

"Jihad is the path of Allah You strengthen their economy and pay taxes which they use to fight us, and kill our sister, our women and our children," he said.

"Are you not embarrassed? Repent to your Lord and come join us. Because a day may come when the borders will be closed and you will be left only with tears and regret."

"War In Paris" - ISIS Claims Responsibility For Deadly Attacks Killing 127: The Full Summary

  • At least 127 people are feared to have been killed according to French president Hollande in a series of devastating attacks across Paris.
  • Eight attackers also died, police say, seven of them by detonating explosive suicide belts.
  • Police continue to search for accomplices who might still be at large.
  • Two hundred people were injured, 80 of them seriously.
  • Shootings and explosions were reported in six locations across the city, including the Stade de France in northern Paris, where two suicide attacks and a bombing took place as the national team played Germany in a friendly football match.
  • The majority of victims died after a mass shooting inside the Bataclan concert venue.
  • Shootings also took place in restaurants and other sites in the centre of the city.
  • President François Hollande, who was at the Stade de France at the time of the assaults, said: "We are going to lead a war which will be pitiless. Because when terrorists are capable of committing such atrocities they must be certain that they are facing a determined France, a united France, a France that is together and does not let itself be moved, even if today we express infinite sorrow."
  • A state of emergency has been declared across France and security at the country’s borders has been tightened.
  • Paris residents have been told to stay in their homes and authorities say “all of the city’s amenities”, including schools, universities, museums, libraries, gyms, swimming pools and markets, will close on Saturday.
  • US president Barack Obama described the atrocities as “an attack on all of humanity”. Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull said the attack “appears to have all the hallmarks of a Daesh [Islamic State] exercise”.
  • Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, has cancelled his official visit to France, due to take place next week, in the wake of the terrorist attacks.
  • UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Friday condemned "the despicable terrorist attacks carried out in various locations in and around Paris" and demanded "the immediate release of the numerous individuals reportedly being held hostage in the Bataclan theater";
  • The Belgian prime minister, Charles Michel, has urged his citizens to avoid going to Paris unless “strictly necessary”. He added that security will be stepped up at public events in Belgium.
  • Paris Deputy Mayor said it is a "terrible, terrible situation ... a tragedy we are facing." 
  • Syrian president al-Assad also condemned the attack: "What France suffered from savage terror is what the Syrian people have been enduring for over five years."

Where the attacks took place:
The attacks were launched in six separate locations across the city – five in the 10th and 11th arrondissements, and one close to the Stade de France, in the north of the city, where president François Hollande was attending a football match between the French and German teams. The map below highlights the most prominent ones:

  • Stade de France - Bombings
Blasts were heard near the stadium in the north of Paris around 9.30pm local time on Friday. Police later confirmed there were three simultaneous bombings, including two suicide attacks, near the stadium as France played Germany in a friendly match.
French President Francois Hollande, who was at the game, left immediately. A prosecutor said people there had been fatalities, but did not confirm the number. A police union official said three people had died.
The blasts occurred near two of the stadium entrances and at a nearby McDonald's restaurant.

  • Restaurant And Bar - Shooting
Around 10:30pm, there were reports of a shooting at a restaurant on Rue Alibert in the 10th arrondissement, about five miles away from the Stade de France.
At least 14 people were later confirmed dead in the rampage at Le Carillon, a bar-cafe, and the nearby Cambodian restaurant Le Petit Cambodge.
Witnesses said gunmen armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles fired at victims through the plate-glass windows.

  • Bataclan Concert Hall - Bombings And Shooting
By 11pm reports emerged that the popular music venue on Boulevard Voltaire in the nearby 11th arrondissement was under attack.
Early reports suggested 15 people had been shot dead in the concert hall, where American band Eagles of Death Metal was due to play. Dozens of hostages were taken inside the venue.
A short time later, security forces launched an assault on the theatre. The two attackers were killed after detonating explosive belts. It now appears more than 80 concert-goers were killed in the venue. Initial reports suggested 120 people were killed.
According to Guardian, the attackers first sprayed cafes outside the concert hall with machine gunfire, then went inside and opened fire on the panicked audience, according to the Paris police chief. As police closed in, three of them detonated suicide vests, killing themselves and setting off explosions.
Several people inside the venue survived the massacre. The band was also confirmed as safe.

    One person was also killed on Boulevard Voltaire, not far from the venue

    • Cafe - Shooting
    Less than a mile from the concert hall, at least 18 diners sitting on outdoor terraces at La Belle Equipe in the popular Charonne area were shot dead.  Emergency workers covered bodies on the pavement outside the traditional Parisian cafe. 
    Le Carillon, a bar-cafe, and the nearby Cambodian restaurant Le Petit Cambodge were apparently both targeted with gunfire, killing around 14 people and leaving several gravely injured, according to the prosecutor. They are at the junction of Rue Bichat and Rue Alibert.
    Witnesses described sounds like fireworks, before they realised the gravity of the situation and tried to find a place to hide, or flee.

    • Pizzeria - Shooting
    Five people were killed in La Casa Nostra pizzeria on Rue de la Fontaine au Roi in the 11th arrondissement.
    Witnesses reported seeing a man firing a machine gun.

    The latest death toll
    Latest information says that at least 120 people are believed to have been killed in six separate attacks across the city. Two hundred people are injured, 80 seriously.
    • At the Bataclan concert venue, 87 people have been reported dead. 
    • At the Stade de France, the Paris prosecutor François Molins said “some” were killed, possibly three. (It is not clear whether this include the attackers thought to have died here.)
    • At the shootings at the Rue de Charonne, 18 are dead.
    • At Boulevard Voltaire, one person is dead.
    • At Rue de la Fontaine au Roi, five are dead.
    • At Rue Alibert, 14 are dead and “many seriously injured”.

    Attackers still not identified
    We sill do not know the identities or nationalities of the attackers involved in the Friday night attacks, though authorities say eight died, seven of them detonating suicide bombs and the final perpetrator shot by police.
    Prosecutor’s office spokeswoman Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre has told AP police have not ruled out the possibility that accomplices may still be at large and that is the focus of the investigation now.
    Britain is hold its own emergency meeting of the COBRA intelligence committee, called by prime minster David Cameron.

    Hollande Blames Attack on Islamic State
    The French president has made an impassioned statement after the emergency security meeting this morning, where he blamed the attack on Islamic State.
    Hollande said 127 people were killed in the attacks, which he described as an “act of war”. He said the attacks were co-ordinated, planned and organised from abroad with assistance from inside France. 
    “I pay homage to the country’s defenders who fought the terrorists yesterday,” he said. “Everyone has given their utmost and will be putting in their best efforts in the day to come.” 
    He called the attack “cowardly’ and said every measure would be taken to fight “the terrorist menace.” 
    "In this most serious and uncertain time, I call for unity and courage,” he said, adding that he would address the French parliament on Monday. 
    “Even if France is wounded, she will rise,” he said. The country will observe three days of mourning.
    Hollande's full remarks from his address to the nation earlier from the Élysée Palace.

    Islamic State takes responsibility for Paris attacks
    Shortly after Hollande's announcement blaming the Islamic State,in an official statement by ISIS, the group said France is the “top target” of the group. 
    It says it carefully studied the locations for the attacks, which were carried out by fighters wearing suicide belts and carrying machine guns.

    Global Consequences of Attacks
    According to FT, the immediate policy and political questions concern French involvement in the Middle East - as well as the impact of the attack on next month’s regional elections.

    The terrorists are reported to have shouted comments about the war in Syria. France launched its first airstrikes on ISIS in Syria in September and has been involved in bombing raids on ISIS in Iraq for many months.

    It is highly unlikely that President Francois Hollande will respond to the terror attacks by calling off French involvement in the war on ISIS. Indeed, in the short term, an intensification of military involvement is more likely.

    The reaction of French voters will be watched closely. Next month, they go to the polls in regional elections. There were already opinion surveys that suggested that Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front, will win in the Nord-Pas de Calais region - while her niece, Marion Marechal-Le Pen has also topped some polls in the Provence region in the South.

    The National Front - which has a long history of hostility to Muslim immigration and which has also argued for the restoration of frontier controls - may well benefit in the aftermath of the attacks. Some of its arguments were, in any case, already seeping into the discourse of the traditional centre-right parties.

    The terror attacks in Paris also come at a time when Europe is in the midst of a “migrant crisis”. With Germany set to receive over 1m refugees this year - most of them from the war-torn Middle East - the domestic pressure on Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, to close her country’s borders to new migrants was already mounting. Even before the Paris attacks Sweden - which has taken more migrants per head than any other EU country - had announced a closure of its borders to new refugees, albeit as a temporary measure. In the aftermath of Paris, the German chancellor, will surely be tempted to take a similar measure, so easing the political and social pressure on her government. But Mrs Merkel will also be aware of the dangerous knock-on effects, such an action could have on Balkan countries further down the migrant route.

    One possible consequence would be for Western policy to focus even more tightly on the defeat of the jihadists of Islamic State - while playing down subsidiary goals, such as the removal of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. But France has been in the forefront of those countries arguing that Assad is at the centre of the problem of Syria. A complete reversal of the anti-Assad policy seems unlikely in the coming weeks. What is more likely is that policy will evolve in the coming months, as the impact, lessons and sheer shock of the Paris terror attacks is absorbed.

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