Saturday

24th Feb 2024

State of emergency in France after attacks kill at least 128

France declared a state of emergency and closed its border Friday (13 November) after a series of attacks killed more than 128 people in Paris. Three days of national mourning were declared.

"There are several dozens of dead people. There are many injured. It is a horror," president Francois Hollande, visibly under shock, said in a TV address.

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"What the terrorists want is to scare us and fill us with dread. There is indeed reason to be afraid," he said.

"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."

Hollande had been evacuated earlier from the Stade de France, where he was attending a football match between France and Germany.

This is where the attacks started around 21.20.

 3 explosions were heard from the pitch, apparently caused by suicide bombers just outside the stadium. One person was killed, apart from the three suspected bombers.

At about the same time, three or more men attacked with automatic rifles the Bataclan concert hall, where about 1,500 people were at a concert of the American rock band The Eagles of Death Metal.

At least 80 people were killed in shootings and the three-hour hostage taking that followed. Police special forces attacked after midnight and killed the attackers.

Not far away, in the 10th and 11th arrondissement (district) of the French capital, other men randomly shot at restaurant and bar terraces with automatic weapons. At least 35 people were killed in three different spots.

A suicide attack was also reported not far from the Bataclan, killing only the terrorist.

Emergency services treated 83 injured people in "absolute emergency" and 132 people in "relative emergency".

The Bataclan and street attacks took place not far from Paris' Republic Square, in an area which is usually lively at night. It also not far from where Charlie Hebdo magazine had its office, where the killings happened in January.

"It is an act of war that was committed by a terrorist army, a jihadist army, Daesh, against France," Hollande said Saturday, using an Arabic name for the Islamic State group ('ISIS).

"It is an act of war that was prepared, organized and planned from abroad, with complicity from the inside, which the investigation will help establish."

ISIS later claimed responsability for the attacks, saying they were carried out by eight people.

According to a TV and radio presenter who was at the Bataclan concert, attackers said that it was "Hollande's fault. He should have not intervened in Syria and Iraq." France is military involved against the Islamic State group in Syria.

The attacks, the worst in Europe since the Madrid bombing that killed 191 people in March 2004, happened a few weeks before the UN Climate conference, where thousands of delegates and 80 heads of state and government are expected.

France had introduced border controls hours before the attacks, in a move to raise security measures before the event. Questions are now raised about the organisation of the conference.

Markets, museum, swimming pools and other publics spaces in Paris are closed this Saturday. School trips are cancelled in the whole country.

Meanwhile, European and world leaders expressed their shock and solidarity.

"This is an attack not just on Paris. 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," US president Barack Obama said.

German chancellor Angela Merkel said she was "deeply shocked" and British prime minister David Cameron offered his "thoughts and prayers".

Merkel added that the victims "wanted to live the life of free people in a city that celebrates freedom" and described the attackers as "murderers who hate precisely this life of freedom."

The attack "was aimed not just at Paris, it targeted and it hits all of us," she said.

"I am dismayed and revolted," European Commssion president Jean-Claude Juncker noted.

In a common statement, the European Commission, the European Council, the European Parliament "condemn[ed] these despicable acts that deeply shock them".

"We will demand that world leaders meeting in the G20 in Antalya respond to the threat of extremist terrorism," European Council president Donald Tusk said in a letter to Hollande.

"We will ensure that everything that can be done at European level to make France safe is being done. And we will make sure that Europe's counter-terror strategy is fit for purpose to face the challenges of the months ahead."

This article has been updated to take into account developments on Saturday morning

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