‘3 coordinated teams of gunmen, bombers carried out Paris attacks’

  • Reuters, Paris
  • Updated: Nov 15, 2015 13:21 IST
Tributes were offered to the victims of a series of coordinated attacks in and around Paris, at the Place de la Republique square in Paris. (AFP)

The attackers who killed 129 people in Friday night’s shootings and suicide bombings in Paris appeared to be split into three coordinated teams armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles and high explosives.

One of the teams talked of Syria and Iraq, where France has launched air strikes over the past year, as they fired on a crowd at a rock concert.

“We can say at this stage of the investigation there were probably three coordinated teams of terrorists behind this barbaric act,” Paris prosecutor Francois Molins told a news conference.

“Seven terrorists died during their criminal action.”

Molins confirmed that French authorities had a security file for Islamist radicalisation on one of the dead attackers -- a French national who had a criminal record but had never spent time in jail.

People light candles at a pop-up memorial to the victims of the Paris' attacks rue de Charonne in Paris. (AFP)

The worst carnage was unleashed as three gunmen systematically killed at least 89 people at a rock concert by an American band at the Bataclan theatre before detonating explosive belts as anti-terrorist commandos launched an assault, officials said.

Some 40 more people were killed in five other attacks in the Paris region, including a double suicide bombing outside the Stade de France stadium, where Hollande and the German foreign minister were watching a soccer international. By Saturday night, 99 people were still in critical condition.

The bloodshed came as France, a founder member of the US-led coalition waging air strikes against Islamic State, was already on high alert for terrorist attacks, raising questions about how such a complex conspiracy could go undetected.

It was the worst such attack in Europe since the Madrid train bombings of 2004, in which Islamists killed 191 people.

Read | Paris: It was an attack on Western way of life, values

Arrests in Belgium

Three people were arrested in Belgium as part of an anti-terrorism probe centred on a Belgian hired car found near the site of one of the Paris attacks, Belgian prosecutors said. It was one of two vehicles used in a string of attacks in central Paris within the space of less than an hour.

A rose with a sign reading 'In the name of what?' is pictured in a bullet hole in the window of a Japanese restaurant next to the cafe 'La Belle Equipe', Rue de Charonne, in Paris. (AFP)

Sources close to the inquiry said one of the dead gunmen was French with ties to Islamist militants and had been under surveillance by the security services.

Reports in the French media said that he has been identified as Ismaël Omar Mostefaï, a 29-year-old Frenchman of Algerian origin from the Paris suburbs, and his brother and father were arrested on Saturday.

A man arrested in Germany’s southern state of Bavaria this month after guns and explosives were found in his car may also be linked to the Paris attacks, Bavaria’s state premier said.

The holder of a Syrian passport found near the body of one of the suicide bombers outside the soccer stadium passed though the Greek island of Leros in October, a Greek minister said.

A Greek police source said the man had arrived in Leros with 69 refugees, where he was registered and had his fingerprints taken. Police declined to give his name. A Greek government source later said that a second suspected Paris attacker was also very likely to have passed through Greece.

If confirmed, the infiltration of militants into the flow of refugees to carry out attacks in Europe could have far-reaching political consequences.

The attacks fuelled a debate raging in Europe about how to handle the influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and other migrants propelled by civil war in Syria, Iraq and Libya.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the European Commission have been pressing EU partners to ease Berlin’s burden by taking in quotas of refugees.

However, in a sign of potential divisions ahead, Poland said that the attacks meant it could not now take its share of migrants under the European Union relocation plan.

Read | Paris attacks: Five possible consequences of the French nightmare

Search for the missing

Updating the casualty toll, the Paris prosecutor said 129 people had been killed and 352 wounded, of whom 99 remained critical. Six attackers blew themselves up and one was shot by police. There may have been an eighth attacker, but this was not confirmed.

The dead included one US. citizen, one Swede, one Briton, two Belgians, two Romanians and two Mexicans, their governments said.

In coordination with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies, US Justice Department attorneys are working with French authorities to obtain further information that may be relevant to the Paris attacks, a Justice Department official said on Saturday.

Relatives and friends scoured Paris hospitals in search of people missing since Friday evening and believed to have gone to the Bataclan concert hall. Some anguished next of kin said their relatives were neither on the confirmed death toll nor among the wounded registered in hospitals.

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