Monday, November 16, 2015
Terror strikes France; 129 killed in coordinated attacks
In a deadly terror strike that reminded the world of the attack on Mumbai on November 26, 2008, suspected Islamic State gunmen launched a coordinated assault on Paris late on Friday night, leaving 129 dead and 352 injured. The worst terror attack in France’s history eclipsed the shooting inside the Charlie Hebdo newspaper office in January, which killed 12 and injured 11.
French President Francois Hollande announced that he held the IS responsible for the attack and France considered it “an act of war”. He announced a state of emergency, the first in France since 2005, and the deployment of 1,500 soldiers.
The attack was carried out on six locations, one being the French national stadium Stade de France where France and Germany football teams were playing a friendly before an 80,000-strong crowd. Mr. Hollande, who was among the spectators, was evacuated immediately following security protocol. At least 80 people were killed in the attack at the Bataclan Theatre during a concert by the band Eagles of Death Metal. The gunmen entered the 1,500-seat venue and began shooting without warning. The police said the assailants were killed. A Syrian passport was found on one of the attackers.
The band members are safe, but have not been located. A spokesperson for the band said, “We are still currently trying to determine the safety and the whereabouts of all our band and crew. Our thoughts are with all of the people involved in this tragic situation.” A relative of one of the band members confirmed that all of them were safe.
The sold-out concert hall in the trendy 11th arrondisement in eastern Paris bore the brunt of the attack, which began around an hour after the performance began. The terrorists, armed with AK-47s and suicide bomb vests, took the fans hostage and began shooting them clinically before the police raided the place. As soon as the raid began, three of the four terrorists blew themselves up. The police killed the fourth.
In the same arrondisement, 19 more people were killed as gunmen fired inside a café. A few hundred metres from the Bataclan, five people were killed on the terrace of a pizzeria. The 11th arrondisement, with its restaurants, cafes and bars, is a popular district among revellers. The night’s mayhem began around 10 p.m. when a gunman fired at a bar and a restaurant in the 10th arrondisement in northern Paris, killing 11 people. Six kilometres north, explosions went off outside the Stade de France. Four people were killed in this attack. France won the match 2-0. At the Gatwick airport in Britain, a 41-year-old Frenchman was arrested with a weapon that appeared to be a firearm.
French show fortitude under adversity
As Paris came under attack on Friday night, French fortitude under adversity shone through.
While being evacuated from the stadium where France and Germany played a friendly football match, the 80,000 spectators sang the French national anthem, turning it into an intensely emotional affair and a symbol of French fortitude in the face of terror. The video has since gone viral.
President Francois Hollande said France had vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice. France would be “merciless” with the nation’s enemies. “We will work alongside our allies to fight this terrorist menace,” he said in his address to the nation. “France is strong, and even if she is wounded, she will get up always and nothing will hold her down, even if we are feeling the grief now.”
The stadium witnessed two suicide attacks — one at each entrance — and a bombing close to a McDonald’s restaurant outside. People were seen on the streets with bloodied faces and limbs, trying to escape.
The other four attacks took place at La Belle Equipe cafe on Rue de Charonne (19 dead), Le Carillon bar and cafe and the adjacent Le Petit Cambodge, a Cambodian restaurant (12 dead) and La Casa Nostra restaurant (five dead).
What has shaken the French in general and Parisians in particular is that this is the second big terror attack in one year. Paris is hosting the United Nations Conference on Climate Change from November 30 to December 11 in which more than 100 heads of state are expected to participate. France is the host of Europe’s top football competition next year, the UEFA European Championship.
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