HT THIS DAY: November 15, 2015 — Paris attacked, 127 slaughtered in six coordinated attacks, IS says more coming
Paris – French President Francois Hollande vowed on Saturday to launch a “pitiless” attack on the Islamic State after the jihadist group orchestrated a coordinated assault by gunmen and bombers that killed at least 127 people across locations in Paris.
Hollande called Friday night’s shootings at Paris cafes, suicide bombings near France’s national stadium and a hostage-taking slaughter inside a concert hall —all in under an hour — “an act of war that was prepared, organised, planned from abroad with internal help”.
“Faced with war, the country must take appropriate action. All measures to protect our compatriots and our territory are being taken within the framework of the state of emergency,” he said after the deadliest attacks to hit his nation since World War II.
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. Twenty people died in those attacks, including three shooters.
Experts said the brazen strikes — that also injured more than 200 people — were a copycat of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks with militants choosing crowded locations in Paris and food joints.
“The militants opened fired at a Paris restaurant like at Mumbai’s Leopold café. Similarly, crowded areas like Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) were targeted as the attackers hit a packed stadium and a rock concert in Paris,” said V Balachandran, former special secretary and a member of a commission that probed the 26/11 violence.
In a statement, the Islamic State admitted responsibility and said eight fighters “wrapped in explosive belts and armed with rifles” carried out synchronised attacks. All were killed.
It said the assaults were designed to show France would remain a top target as long as it continued playing a role in bombing IS targets in Syria and Iraq.
The cold-blooded massacre was part of what terror experts call a “high impact, low cost” attack that is difficult to apprehend due to the use of simple weapons and minimum logistical backup.
As Hollande addressed the nation, authorities expressed concern that many of the attackers could be home home-grown as an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 Europeans have flocked to join the IS ranks – with France being the single-largest source of recruits.
Analysts said the massacre – that came days after the IS allegedly shot down a Russian plane, killing over 240 people – showed the group was preparing to inflict enough damage to drive foreign governments from the anti-IS coalition.
As news of the bloodbath spread, world leaders united in sympathy and indignation, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying the people of India felt “the shock, pain and outrage of the people of France”.
“India stands firmly with the great people of France in dealing with the tragedy. And we must stand together as humanity in combating the major global threat to our times and uphold our values and our way of life,” he said. Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj confirmed no Indian had died.
A defiant France refused to cancel a landmark climate conference in Paris that begins on November 30 and is expected to see over 100 heads of state in attendance but strengthened security measures.
French anti-terror police also worked to identify potential accomplices and said eight died, seven in suicide bombings, a new terror tactic in France. Police said they shot and killed the other assailant. A Greek minister later on Saturday said the holder of a Syrian passport found near the body of one of the gunmen passed though Greece in October.
Suicide bombs targeted spots around the national Stade de France stadium, where Hollande was watching an exhibition soccer match. Fans inside the stadium recoiled at the sound of explosions, but the match continued amid rising spectator fears.
Around the same time, bullets shattered the clinking of wine glasses in a trendy Paris neighbourhood as gunmen targeted a string of crowded cafes, killing at least 37 people.
The deadliest attack was on the Bataclan, a popular concert venue where the Californian rock group Eagles of Death Metal was performing.