Update, 3:58 p.m.: The death toll from the apparently coordinated series of attacks in Paris on Friday night has increased to 129 people and more than 350 injured. Ninety-nine of the injured are in critical condition, Paris prosecutor François Molins said.
Molins gave a timeline of the terror that was unleashed at 9:20 p.m. Friday night, when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives near the Stade de France. Five minutes later, gunmen opened fire at a bar and a restaurant, killing 15 and severely injuring 10. At 9:30 p.m., the second suicide bomber detonated his explosives outside Stade de France. Over the next 10 minutes, gunmen opened fire in front of another bar and another restaurant before a suicide bomber killed himself outside a third restaurant. Almost simultaneously, several gunmen stormed into the Bataclan concert hall. At 9:53 p.m., a third suicide bomber near Stade de France killed himself. Almost three hours later—at 12:20 a.m.—commando forces launched the assault on the Bataclan. Three attackers in the concert hall were killed; two committed suicide with explosives and a third was shot.
Witnesses say that at the Bataclan—where the attackers killed 89 people—the perpetrators made references to Iraq and Syria. And Molins said all the attackers wore identical explosives.
Original post, 10:25 a.m.: ISIS is responsible for the devastating string of shootings and explosions that killed at least 120 people and critically injured about 100 others in Paris on Friday night, said French President François Hollande in a speech on Saturday morning. “The attacks were planned and organized from abroad with help from inside France,” Hollande said.
Hollande, speaking after an emergency meeting at the Élysée Palace with top government leaders and chiefs of police and the army, called the attacks an “act of war,” referring to them as “cowardly” and vowing to fight back against the “terrorist menace.”
Shortly after Hollande’s spech, ISIS issued an official statement in French and Arabic claiming responsibility for the attacks, saying France “and those who follow in its path” are the group’s “top target.” The statement boasted that the targets were “specifically chosen in advance” and carried out by eight men; it also said the attacks had been mounted in retaliation for French airstrikes on ISIS-held territory and insults directed at the Prophet Mohammed, linking Friday night’s carnage to the mass murder of cartoonists that took place in January at the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
The Associated Press notes that while the statement was circulated by ISIS supporters, included the group’s logo, and “resembled previous statements issued by the group,” it was not immediately possible to confirm the authenticity of the statement.
One key question that investigators are trying to answer today is who exactly the eight assailants were. The AP, citing two police officials speaking on the condition of anonymity, reports that investigators have identified one of the suicide bombers as a young French man with known ties to Islamic extremism. The French newspaper Libération reports that one Egyptian passport and one Syrian passport were found at the site of one of the attacks.
Saturday morning’s developments, which follow a night of speculation about who planned and carried out the highly coordinated attacks in Paris, indicate that if the Islamic State is responsible, the group has gained the capability to commit acts of terror in Europe. The attacks, which are being described as the deadliest France has seen since World War II, occurred in quick succession at six separate sites around the city, including the national soccer stadium, where the AP says three suicide bombers exploded themselves during a game, and the rock venue Bataclan, where assailants killed at least 80 people and took hostages during a concert.
According to the AP, the current death toll does not include “scores” of people who are believed to have been at or near one of the six sites that were attacked, and are still unaccounted for. Parisians whose loved ones have been missing since last night are trying to use social media to find them, employing the hashtag #rechercheparis, meaning “Paris Search.”
On Saturday morning, the prosecutor’s office in Paris announced that all eight of the attackers were dead as of Friday night. Seven of them were killed in suicide bombings, and the eighth, according to the AP, was killed by security forces as they raided Bataclan to rescue concertgoers. A spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office told the AP that investigators had not ruled out the possibility that accomplices could still be at large. The Guardian reports that one individual, who was arrested in Bavaria near the Austrian border on Nov. 5 with a car full of alashnikovs, hand grenades, and explosives, is being looked at as possibly connected to the plot. German media has said that the man’s car had 200 grams of TNT concealed in its bodywork, and that its GPS system indicated he was on his way to Paris.
World leaders—including Pope Francis, UK Prime Minister David Cameron, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel—have hurried to condemn the attacks and voice solidarity with France. But one foreign leader’s comments stand out from the pack: According to Agence France-Presse, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has taken advantage of the Paris attacks to deliver his own message, characterizing the attacks in Paris as being connected to his own struggle against rebels in his country, whom France has supported during the Syrian civil war. In comments to French lawmakers in Damascus that were broadcast on French radio, Assad said he “warned against what would happen in Europe for the past three years.” He added: “We said, don’t take what is happening in Syria lightly. Unfortunately, European officials did not listen.”
Criticism of France also came from within, with the influential far-right politician Marine Le Pen saying on television, “France must determine who its friends are and who its enemies are. France’s enemies are those who maintain links with Islamism. Once and for all, France must recapture control of its borders.”
Our understanding of what exactly transpired on Friday night continues to sharpen, as eyewitness testimony trickles in. A journalist from French newspaper Le Monde, Daniel Psenny, posted harrowing video footage that he shot Friday night from his window, which looks out onto the back exit of Bataclan. The deeply disturbing video, which Le Monde has posted on its website, shows dozens of people running out of the venue as gunfire rings out repeatedly. Some of the people escaping the venue are dragging others by their arms; two people can be seen hanging from the Bataclan’s windows, clinging to the ledge by their fingertips. Some motionless bodies lie near the building’s exit, and it is unclear from the video whether they are alive. In a first-person account of what he saw, Psenny said he was later trying to help people into his apartment, and was shot in the arm by a gunman who might have been inside the Bataclan and aiming at him from a window.
In Paris on Saturday morning, a state of emergency declared on Friday night remained in place, with a heavy police presence and some 1,500 French troops patrolling the streets and guarding schools, government buildings, and religious sites. French police have instituted a temporary ban on public demonstrations in central Paris as well as surrounding districts, and the country’s interior minister has authorised the impositions of local curfews as needed. Hollande, meanwhile, has declared three days of national mourning, and the managers of the Eiffel Tower have announced that the iconic tourist attraction would be closed until further notice, according to Le Monde.
On the street near Bataclan, reporter Kim Willsher said on Twitter she could still smell smoke Saturday morning. Meanwhile, Paris hospitals have been flooded with lines of Parisians wanting to donate blood after a call went out asking for help, according to French journalist Grégory Dominé, but the city’s deputy mayor said on Twitter earlier this morning that no more blood is needed today and that donations should be spread out over the next week.
In his national address, Hollande struck a note of toughness and sorrow: “Even if France is wounded, she will rise,” he said. “Even if we are in grief, nothing will destroy her. France is strong, valiant and will defeat this barbarism.”
Hollande will address the French Parliament on Monday.
This post has been updated as news develops.