Paris carnage ‘an act of war’
A WAVE of terrorist attacks targeting concertgoers, soccer fans and Parisians enjoying a Friday evening at popular nightspots killed at least 129 people and wounded more than 350 in the deadliest terrorist violence to strike France since World War II (WWII).
In the wake of the attacks, French President François Hollande declared in a nationally broadcast TV address that the attacks were an “act of war” organized by the Islamic State (IS). He declared a nationwide state of emergency and mourning and pledged to wage a “merciless” fight against terrorists. He said the attacks carried out almost simultaneously on six targets by eight gunmen and suicide bombers were “organized and planned outside.”
In the aftermath of a night of deadly attacks, France has also imposed border controls and deployed 1,500 extra troops.
According to BBC News, Hollande imposed a state of emergency after the worst peacetime attack in France since WWII. It is also the deadliest in Europe since the 2004 Madrid bombings.
The violence began soon after 11 p.m. as people were enjoying a Friday night-out in Paris. A gunman opened fire on Le Carillon bar in the rue Albert, near the Place de la République, 10th District, before heading across the road to Le Petit Cambodge (Little Cambodia), killing a total of 15 people.
The attack sites included La Belle Équipe, 92 rue de Charonne, 11th District, at least 19 dead in gun attacks; La Casa Nostra Restaurant, 92 rue de la Fontaine au Roi, 11th District, at least five dead in gun attacks; Stade de France, just north of Paris, explosions heard outside the venue, three attackers dead; and Bataclan concert venue, 50 Boulevard Voltaire, 11th District, stormed by four gunmen, at least 80 dead.
The 1,500-seat Bataclan concert hall suffered the worst of the attacks. Gunmen opened fire on a sell-out gig by the US rock group Eagles of Death Metal, killing 89 people. Agence France-Presse News Agency reported that the gunmen took 20 hostages and were heard to tell their captives, “It’s Hollande’s fault … . He should not have intervened in Syria.”
According to BBC, security forces stormed the concert hall and found four attackers dead. Three had blown themselves up and a fourth was shot dead by police. Islamic State released a statement on Saturday, saying that eight brothers using explosive belts and varying assault rifles had carried out attacks on “carefully chosen” targets in response to France’s involvement in the air strikes on IS militants in Syria and Iraq.
Shortly before the IS statement, Hollande said France had been attacked in a “cowardly shameful and violent way.”
“So, France will be merciless in its response to Islamic State’s militants,” he said, vowing to “use all means within the law … on every battleground here and abroad together with our allies.”
Speaking after he was evacuated from the stadium that was attacked by the IS militants, Hollande defied threats of violent retaliations, warning that France would stand firm and determined. He left no doubt about this resolve: “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.”
“This is an ordeal that again assails,” he said. “We know where it comes from, who these criminals are, who these terrorists are.”
Hollande, at the same time, received support from international allies for his tough stance against the terrorists. Speaking to reporters in Washington, US President Barack Obama decried an “attack on all humanity,” calling the Paris violence an “outrageous attempt to terrorize innocent civilians” and vowing to do “whatever it takes to help bring perpetrators to justice.”
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.
The French press has come around to close ranks behind the government’s concern over France going into war footing against IS militants. “This time it’s war,” the newspaper Le Parisien declared, as the press reacted with horror but determination after the wave of attacks.
The center-Right daily Le Figaro echoed the theme with the headline, “War in Central Paris.” Many papers called for unity in the country still reeling from jihadist attacks in January that claimed 17 lives. The Left-leaning Liberation daily called for France to stay resolute in the context of “terrorist barbarism (that has) crossed a historic line.” Its editorial argued, “It is impossible not to link these bloody events with the battles raging in the Middle East. France is playing its part there. It must continue to do so without blinking.”
In the international front, France was gaining diplomatic support from Western allies. Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron expressed shock over the Paris attacks and pledged to do “whatever we can to help.”
The Vatican called the Paris carnage “an attack on peace for all humanity” and said “a decisive, supportive response” was needed “on the part of all of us as we counter the threat of homicidal hatred in all forms.”
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