In perhaps one of the bloodiest attack in France since the second world war, and in Europe in recent time, at least 127 people have been killed and nearly 200 left wounded in a multiple shootout in and around Paris on Friday night. According to the authorities, six locations were attacked in the capital city Paris, while one location came under attack outside the city when at least eight gun men went on a killing spree in the streets of Paris. A state of internal emergency has been declared by the French President Francois Hollande.
The French President was inside the capital city’s national stadium, hosting an international friendly game of football, when it came under the suicide attack. Mr. Hollande was safely escorted away by his security posse.
Five French borders have been sealed as well with the state authorities taking all possible preventive measures.
According to the authorities, among the seven near simultaneous attacks the severest took place in Bataclan music hall where the gunmen reportedly killed over 80 people among those assembled for the rock music concert. As per one eyewitness account, the music concert was about to come to an end when the gunmen opened fire that went on till about 15 minutes.
Four gun men were seen armed with AK47 assault rifles as they stormed inside the rock concert spraying bullets and taking at least 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.
“We heard people screaming – the hostages particularly – and the threats from the kidnappers,” added another survivor, 34-year-old Charles.
Responding to the horrific attack, France’s anti-terrorist commandos eventually launched an assault on the building. Three of the militants reportedly blew up their explosive vests as elite anti-terror police raided the venues around 12:30 am midnight (local time), while a fourth was shot dead by the police.
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.
In other simultaneous attacks, more than 50 other people were killed in the Paris region, the city hall official told the press. Paris Public Prosecutor Francois Molins said five assailants had been “neutralised”.
Thus far, there has been no immediate credible claim of responsibility for the attacks, and no clear picture of how many attackers were involved and if any were on the run. Addressing the national audience in a televised address, President Hollande affirmed that the nation would stand firm and united.
“This is a terrible ordeal that again assails us,” the French President said adding, “We know where it comes from, who these criminals are, who these terrorists are.”
As per the state authorities, all emergency services have been pressed into services and a strong 1,500 men army contingent have been deployed into the Paris region. The Paris metro railway too has been shut besides schools, universities and municipal buildings have been ordered to stay shut on Saturday.
The attack has come as France has heightened security measures ahead of a major global climate conference that starts in two weeks, out of fear of violent protests and potential terrorist attacks. Hollande canceled a planned trip to this weekend’s G—20 summit in Turkey, which was to focus in large part on growing fears of terrorism carried out by Islamic extremists.
France has been on high alert since the jihadist attacks in January against Charlie Hebdo magazine and a Jewish supermarket that left 17 dead. Several other attacks have been foiled through the year.
(With inputs from the Agencies)