Paris attacks: 153 killed, scores injured as police hunt accomplices of assailants


French police are hunting possible accomplices of eight assailants who terrorised Paris, France concert-goers, cafe diners and soccer fans in this country’s deadliest peacetime attacks, a succession of explosions and shootings that cast a dark shadow over this luminous tourist destination.
Parisians, who went to sleep in horror at initial news of the attacks, woke Saturday to learn that at least 153 people were killed and scores wounded.
A total of six locations were attacked in and just outside the capital, Paris prosecutor, François Molins, revealed on Saturday.
The apparently-coordinated attacks happened on a night when thousands of Paris residents and tourists were reveling and fans were enjoying a soccer match between France and world champion, Germany.
Terrorists — some with AK-47s, some reportedly with bombs strapped to them — attacked sites throughout the French capital and at the stadium where the soccer match was underway.
Scores were killed in the coordinated attacks late Friday, leaving a nation in mourning and the world in shock.
United States (U.S.) President Barack Obama spoke with French President Francois Hollande to offer condolences and assistance in the investigation, the White House said.
Obama said: “This is an attack not just on Paris, not just on the people on France, but an attack on all humanity and the universal values we share.”
He called the attacks an “outrageous attempt to terrorize innocent civilians.”
A witness told Radio France that attackers inside the Bataclan concert hall entered firing rifles and shouting “Allah akbar.”
The worst carnage occurred at Bataclan, with at least 112 left dead.
A journalist who was at a rock concert there escaped and told CNN: “We lied down on the floor not to get hurt. It was a huge panic. The terrorists shot at us for 10 to 15 minutes. It was a bloodbath.” Julien Pearce didn’t hear the attackers speak, but he said one friend who escaped heard them talk about Iraq and Syria.
Later, he said the men were speaking French. Two men dressed in black started shooting and after wounded people fell to the floor, the gunmen shot them again, execution-style, he said.
World leaders joined together in sympathy and indignation, New York police increased security measures, and people around the world reached out to friends and loved ones in France.
The perpetrators remained a mystery — their nationalities, their motives, even their exact number.
Suspicion turned to Islamic extremists, who are angry at France’s military operations against the Islamic State group and al-Qaida affiliates, and who targetted satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo this year and have hit Jewish and other sites in France in the past.
On Saturday morning, Hollande convened a special security meeting.
He vowed to be “merciless” with the nation’s foes following what he called unprecedented terrorist attacks.
The Paris prosecutor’s office spokeswoman, Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre, said seven attackers died in the suicide bombings and another was killed by police.
She said there was the possibility that other attackers are at large.
Investigators are also looking for possible accomplices.
Three suicide bombs targetted spots around the national stadium Stade de France, north of the capital, where the French president was watching an exhibition soccer match between the French and German national teams.
Then gunshots overpowered the clinking of wine glasses in a trendy Paris neighborhood. Blood hit the pavement after gunmen targetted a string of popular cafes, crowded on the unusually balmy Friday night, and about 37 people were killed, according to Paris Prosecutor, Francois Molins.
The attackers then stormed a concert hall, the Bataclan, hosting an American rock band, opened fire on the panicked audience, then took them hostage. As police closed in, three detonated explosive belts, killing themselves, according to Paris police chief Michel Cadot.
Another attacker detonated a suicide bomb on Boulevard Voltaire, near the music hall, the prosecutor’s office said.
The Bataclan was the scene of the worst carnage.
Sylvain, a tall, sturdy 38-year-old concert-goer, collapsed in tears as he recounted the attack, the chaos, and his escape during a lull in gunfire.
“I was watching the concert in the pit, in the midst of the mass of the audience. First I heard explosions, and I thought they were firecrackers.
“Very soon, I smelled powder, and I understood what was happening. There were shots everywhere, in waves. I lay down on the floor. I saw, at least, two shooters, but I heard others talk. They cried, ‘It’s Hollande’s fault.’ I heard one of the shooters shout, ‘Allahu Akbar,'” Sylvian told The Associated Press.
He spoke on condition that his full name not be used out of concern for his safety.
He was among dozens of survivors offered counseling and blankets in a municipal building set up as a crisis centre.
Jihadis on Twitter immediately praised the attackers and criticized France’s military operations against Islamic State extremists.
Hollande declared a state of emergency and announced renewed border checks along frontiers that are normally open under Europe’s free-travel zone.
“A determined France, a united France, a France that joins together and a France that will not allow itself to be staggered even if today, there is infinite emotion faced with this disaster, this tragedy, which is an abomination, because it is barbarism,” Hollande said.
A U.S. official briefed by the Justice Department says intelligence officials were not aware of any threats before Friday’s attacks.
The violence raises questions about security for the millions of tourists who come to Paris — and for world events the French capital routinely hosts.
Some 80 heads of state, including possibly Obama, are expected for a critical climate summit in two weeks. In June, France is to host the European soccer championship — with the Stade de France a major venue.
And Paris-based UNESCO is expecting world leaders Monday for a forum about overcoming extremism. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani cancelled a trip because of Friday’s attacks. Hollande cancelled a planned trip to this weekend’s G-20 summit in Turkey.
France has been on edge since January, when Islamic extremists attacked the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which had run cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, and a kosher grocery.
This time, they targetted young people enjoying a rock concert and ordinary city residents enjoying a Friday night out.
France has seen several smaller-scale attacks or attempts this year, including an incident on a high-speed train in August in which American travellers thwarted an attempted attack by a heavily armed man.
French authorities are particularly concerned about the threat from hundreds of French Islamic radicals who have travelled to Syria and returned home with skills to stage violence.
Though it was unclear who was responsible for Friday night’s violence, the Islamic State is “clearly the name at the top of everyone’s list,” said Brian Michael Jenkins, a terrorism expert and senior adviser to the president of the Washington-based RAND Corporation.
“The big question on everyone’s mind is, were these attackers, if they turn out to be connected to one of the groups in Syria, homegrown terrorists or were they returning fighters from having served” with the Islamic State group, Jenkins said. “That will be a huge question.”
*Culled from CNN and Associated Press


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