Saturday, 14 November 2015
Terrorists Hit Paris: Shootings And Explosions Leave At Least 158 Dead
At least 158 people have died in Paris in a seemingly coordinated wave of gun and suicide bomb attacks, prompting the French president, François Hollande, to declare a state of emergency and bring in controls on the country’s borders.
At least eight of the attackers are dead, seven of them in suicide bombings, but witnesses to one shooting said police told them at least one attacker was still at large.
What seems likely to be the most deadly terrorist attack in Europe since the 2004 train bombings in Madrid saw attacks at six venues across Paris, including gun attacks at a rock concert and two restaurants, and a series of blasts near the Stade de France, where the national side were playing Germany in an international friendly football match.
Up to 120 people were killed in the bloodiest of the incidents, when gunmen opened fire inside the Bataclan concert venue in the 11th arrondissement, during a concert by the US rock group Eagles of Death Metal.
Many people in the crowd were reportedly held hostage before armed police stormed the venue, killing four attackers. Some of those inside the Bataclan theatre told AP three of the terrorists detonated suicide belts as French security forces closed in.
Police officials said two of the incidents near the stadium involved suicide attacks, with three people reported to be killed.
Across the city, a further 200 people have been injured, at least 80 of them seriously.
Paris prosecutor François Molins reported at least eight attackers had been killed across the city, seven of them in suicide bombings.
However, one witness told the Guardian that officers had warned him at least one of the terrorists had still not been apprehended.
Psychotherapist Mark Colclough, a British and Danish national, was standing near a cafe on the Rue de La Fointaine au Roi in the 11th arrondissement when a gunman opened fire on patrons inside.
“He [the attacker] was standing in a shooting position. He had his right leg forward and he was standing with his left leg back. He was holding up to his left shoulder a long automatic machinegun – I saw it had a magazine beneath it.”
Colclough said the man was left-handed and shooting in short bursts. “It was fully intentional, professional bursts of three or four shots.”
“Everything he was wearing was tight, either boots or shoes and the trousers were tight, the jumper he was wearing was tight, no zippers or collars. Everything was toned black.
“If you think of what a combat soldier looks like, that is it – just without the webbing. Just a man in military uniform, black jumper, black trousers, black shoes or boots and a machinegun.”
Colclough said police told him the killer he saw had not been caught.
“We were taken to the police station to give a witness statement. The gunman we saw has not been apprehended. They [the police] confirmed that on the way out. We asked if it was safe to walk home and they said definitely not.”
At Bataclan, one concertgoer, Julien Pearce, a journalist from Europe 1 radio, said he saw two or three men armed with Kalashnikov-type rifles burst in midway through the concert and begin “shooting blindly at the crowd” for a number of minutes.
“Everyone was running in all directions towards the stage,” he said. “It was a stampede and even I was trampled on. I saw a lot of people hit by bullets. The gunmen had loads of time to reload at least three times. They weren’t masked; they knew what they were doing; they were very young.”
The authorities warned people to remain indoors where possible and closed the Métro system.
The attacks come 10 months after 20 people died during attacks by Islamist gunmen on the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, located close to the Bataclan theatre, and a kosher supermarket in Paris.
Hollande cancelled plans to attend this weekend’s G20 summit in Turkey and convened a cabinet meeting. In a TV address to the nation, he declared a state of emergency.
“This is a terrible ordeal that again assails us,” he said. “We know where it comes from, who these criminals are, who these terrorists are.”
He said the attackers wanted “to scare us and fill us with dread”. He added: “There is dread, but in the face of this dread, there is a nation that knows how to defend itself, that knows how to mobilise its forces and, once again, will defeat the terrorists.”
French president François Hollande announces the closure of the country’s borders following the attacks
The state of emergency would be in force across France, Hollande said, meaning some place might be closed and people searched. He said: “The second decision I have made is to close the borders. We must ensure that no one enters to commit any crimes and that those who have committed the crimes that we have unfortunately seen can also be arrested if they should leave the territory.”
The events brought immediate international condemnation, with the US president, Barack Obama, calling it “an attack on all of humanity and the universal values we share”.
Obama said he did not want to speculate on who might have carried out the attacks, but said the US was ready to help “our oldest ally”. “Those who think they can terrorise France or their values are wrong,” he said. “Liberté, égalité and fraternité are values that we share, and they are going to endure far beyond any act of terrorism.”
US president Barack Obama expresses his condolences and offers assistance to France after simultaneous attacks around Paris
The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said she was “deeply shaken by the news and pictures that are reaching us from Paris.”
David Cameron, who is still expected to travel to the G20 summit, said he was shocked by the events. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the French people. We will do whatever we can to help.”
The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said: “My thoughts are with the people of Paris tonight.”
Senior British officials are expected to hold an emergency meeting in Whitehall on Saturday as the UK assesses the implications of the Paris attack.
Britain’s intelligence agencies moved quickly on Friday night to offer assistance to their French counterparts. The British embassy in Paris was placed on “full response mode”.
It is understood, however, that officials are unlikely to raise the threat level in the UK which is currently set at the second highest level of “severe”. The highest level of “critical” is only declared if intelligence is received of an imminent attack in the UK. Threat levels in the UK are set by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre and the domestic security service MI5.
Witnesses said a number of people had died when gunmen fired inside a restaurant in the 10th arrondissement of the city. A police official said 11 people had died there, but other reports said there were more deaths.
“I was on my way to my sister’s when I heard shots being fired. Then I saw three people dead on the ground. I know they were dead because they were being wrapped up in plastic bags,” student Fabien Baron told Reuters.
In the rue de Charonne, customers at the Carillon bar and restaurant heard an explosion at around 9.20pm and assumed it was a firecracker.
Witnesses said a man then appeared and fired a first salvo at the bar and a second at a Vietnamese restaurant, the Petit Cambodge, opposite. The man was reported to have entered Le Carillon and fired “lots of volleys”.
One man who lives near the Petit Cambodge said he initially thought the gunfire was fireworks. Another witness told AFP: “Everyone was on the floor, no one moved. A girl was carried by a young man in his arms. She appeared to be dead.”
At the Bataclan venue, reporters outside saw hundreds of officers carrying machine-guns outside before the building was stormed.
Among those still unaccounted for there were members of the band. The Facebook page of Eagles of Death Metal, a spin-off from the better-known Queens of the Stone Age, said they were “currently trying to determine the safety and whereabouts of all our band and crew”.
“It was carnage,” said Marc Coupris, 57, still shaking after being freed from the Bataclan venue. “It looked like a battlefield, there was blood everywhere, there were bodies everywhere. I was at the far side of the hall when shooting began. There seemed to be at least two gunmen. They shot from the balcony.
“Everyone scrabbled to the ground. I was on the ground with a man on top of me and another one beside me up against a wall. We just stayed still like that. At first we kept quiet. I don’t know how long we stayed like that, it seemed like an eternity.”
“It was horrible, there were so many corpses, I just can’t talk about it,” said a bearded man in a T-shirt as he ran down the street from the Bataclan in shock.
The French TV station BFMTV said the gunmen who attacked the Bataclan had shouted “It’s for Syria” before opening fire.
Images taken by people living near the Bataclan showed bodies in the street, covered by sheets thrown down by local residents.
A witness called Anna, who lives near the Bataclan, said they heard firing and “threw ourselves on the ground”. In a shaky voice, she told BFMTV. “We saw people running and people with guns. The whole area is sealed off. We don’t know what is happening here. Oh my god, there’s a body there. This is horrible.”
Hollande was attending the football game at the Stade de France when the attacks began. The blasts could be heard by the crowd, causing panic as people spilled into the field and the PA announcer asked people to avoid certain exits.
Hollande rushed back to the interior ministry for crisis talks with the prime minister, Manuel Valls, and interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, and later called the emergency cabinet meeting. Hollande joined Cazeneuve in visiting the scene of the attack at the Bataclan venue.
“The terrorists who were not far from here were killed,” Hollande said on television after visiting a security command centre near the concert hall.
Source: Guardian Newspaper, UK