Paris attacks: Three teams of attackers leave 129 dead, 352 injured

Three arrested as Islamic State claims responsibility for attacks

Warning: Contains graphic scenes. People fleeing the Bataclan filmed by journalist, Daniel Psenny, who was later shot in the arm. Video: Reuters

 

Six separate attacks in Paris for which Islamic State has claimed responsibility killed 129 people and wounded 352, of whom 99 are in critical condition, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins told a press conference on Saturday evening.

Three co-ordinated teams of jihadi gunmen struck the city in a wave of suicide bombs and shootings, at the “origin of this barbarity”, he said.

The death toll is likely to rise.

Mr Molins said three French nationals had been arrested in Belgium, where they all lived, in connection with the attacks, France’s deadliest since the second world war and the worst witnessed in Europe since the 2004 Madrid railway bombings.

Relatives of one of the attackers, a Frenchman born in the Paris suburbs, were later arrested on Saturday, according to French authorities who said that searches were underway.

Belgian prime minister Charles Michel has confirmed one of three suspects arrested was present in Paris on Friday.

Islamic State on Saturday claimed responsibility for the atrocities, which the French president, François Hollande, denounced as an “act of war” that must be countered “mercilessly”.

A state of emergency was declared in France.

Different tactics

The three teams which carried out the attacks used three different tactics: explosives vests outside the Stade de France and in one restaurant; drive-by shootings at the terraces of three Paris bars and restaurants; and an attack on a concert hall in which 89 concert-goers were massacred.

“Seven terrorists died in the course of criminal actions,” Mr Molins said. He has assigned 22 magistrates and four legal clerks to the crisis cell that is investigating the attacks.

They are seeking to determine the identity of the killers, their accomplices, and those who planned and financed the attacks.

Mr Molins listed details of seven attacks.

The first suicide bomber at the Stade de France, at 9.20pm, was the only one of three outside the stadium to claim a victim, a passerby who was killed by the blast.

The three suicide bombers outside the stadium, a gunman who blew himself up in a Paris bar and the three men who carried out the massacre in the Bataclan were all wearing identical explosive vests, comprised of highly volatile TATP nitrogen dioxide explosives, batteries, detonators and bolts designed to kill the most people possible.

All seven were armed with 7.62 calibre Kalashnikov assault rifles.

The second and third suicide bombers outside the stadium detonated their vests at 9.30pm and 9.53pm respectively.

Meanwhile, occupants of a black Seat car opened fire on people seated in front of the Carillon and Petit Cambodge restaurants in the 10th district at 9.25pm, killing 15 people and critically wounding 10 others. About 100 bullet casings of different calibres were found.

Seven minutes later, gunmen in a black Seat car opened fire on the À la Bonne Bière bar in the 11th district, killing five people and critically wounding eight others. Again, about 100 bullets were found.

Four minutes after La Bonne Bière, at 9.36pm, gunmen in a black Seat attacked the Belle Equipe restaurant in the rue de Charonne, killing 19 people and critically wounding nine people. For the third time, about 100 shots were fired.

Vest detonated

At 9.40pm, four minutes after the shooting in the rue de Charonne, a suicide-bomber detonated his vest in the Comptoir Voltaire bar, killing himself and critically wounding one person.

At exactly the same time, a black Polo was parked in front of the Bataclan concert hall. Three gunmen got out of the car and burst into a concert attended by 1,400 people.

A large number of victims sought safety in the orchestra pit, which is where the greatest number died, Mr Molins said. The gunmen “evoked Syria and Iraq” during the assault.

French commandos from the BRI and RAID units stormed the concert hall at 12.20am.

One terrorist was killed by the commandos; the two others detonated their explosive belts. Eighty-nine people were killed in the Bataclan.

One of the gunmen in the Bataclan was identified by a fingerprint as a French citizen born in 1985 in Essonne, south of Paris.

He had eight criminal convictions but had never served time in prison. He figured on the “S” watchlist of suspected radical Islamists, but had never been implicated in an extremist network.

Syrian passport

A Syrian passport was found near one of the suicide bombers’ bodies at the Stade de France.

Belgian authorities made three arrests in connection with the attacks, in a series of raids on Saturday afternoon in the Belgian capital.

The black Seat and the Polo which stopped in front of the Bataclan were registered in Belgium.

A Frenchman who resides in Belgium had rented the Polo. He was arrested at the Franco-Belgian border on Saturday morning, along with two other people from the Brussels area.

Belgian justice minister Koen Geens confirmed that “multiple searches and arrests” had been made, related to a vehicle with a Belgian number plate.

Several police vans, sniffer dogs and bomb disposal experts closed off Rue Dubois-Thorn in the commune of Molenbeek in Brussels on Saturday afternoon and seized a black Volkswagen vehicle.

Local media reports said a parking ticket had been found in a car located near the site of one of the Paris attacks on Friday night, linking the car to Molenbeek.

The Brussels suburb, located just 3km west of Brussels’s Grand Place, was also the site of a number of counter-terrorism raids in January, just weeks after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris.

Islamic State made three claims of responsibility for the attacks, in audio and video recordings, and in a print communiqué.

Police sources quoted by Le Figaro said the sang-froid of the assailants showed they were trained professionals, probably jihadists who had returned from combat zones. The same source said at least 10 suspects are actively being sought in the Paris area.

Summary of what we know:

At least 129 people killed

352 people injured, 99 critically

Shootings and explosions in six locations across city

Eight attackers died, seven of them by detonating suicide belts

Police are searching for accomplices

Highest death toll was at Bataclan theatre where 89 people died

Stade de France attack - unknown number killed

Boulevard de Charonne - 18 reported killed

Boulevard Voltaire - one killed

Rue de la Fontaine-au-Roi - five killed

Rue Alibert - 14 killed

Mr Hollande has indicated the French authorities believe the attacks were planned outside France with some support from inside the country.

As police continued to gather evidence at multiple crime scenes in Paris, attention is focusing on who the attackers were and how they organised the deadliest attack in France in well over half a century.

The holder of a Syrian passport found near the body of one of the gunmen who died in Friday night’s attacks in Paris passed though Greece in October, a Greek minister has said.

“The holder of the passport passed through the island of Leros on October 3, 2015, where he was identified according to EU rules,” said Greece’s deputy minister in charge of police, Nikos Toskas, in a statement.

A Greek police source said the passport’s owner was a young man who had arrived in Leros with a group of 69 refugees and had his fingerprints taken by authorities there. Police declined to give his name.

Mr Toskas did not know if the passport was checked by other countries through which the holder possibly passed on his way to France.

The police source said French authorities had asked other countries in Europe, including Greece, to check on the passport.

Flagged in past

One of the suicide bombers who targeted Paris is reported to have been a young Frenchman flagged in the past for links with an Islamic extremist activity.

Two French police officials said the man was among attackers who blew himself up after the rampage and hostage-taking at the Bataclan concert hall.

Earlier, police officials said at least one of the suicide bombers who targeted France’s national stadium was found to have a Syrian passport.

None of the attackers has been publicly identified.

The authorities have not ruled out the possibility that some of the killers’ accomplices are still at large, said public prosecutor François Molins, and according to Le Figaro at least 10 suspects are actively being sought.

Belgian arrest

Meanwhile, Belgian prime minister Charles Michel has confirmed one of three suspects arrested in Brussels on Saturday was present in Paris on Friday..

RTBF reported police searches were continuing in the Molenbeek district of Brussels.

Its website quoted a source close to the operations as saying there had been “between two and three searches, linked to the Paris attacks“ and that one man had been arrested.

In France, the Paris killers’ modus operandi, their ability to source and use weapons and the organised, co-ordinated nature of the attacks lends credence to the theory that the assailants were trained by a jihadi group.

“These were not people who discovered yesterday how to handle weapons of war,” said the journalist Julien Pearce of Europe 1 radio, who was inside Le Bataclan when the shooting began.

“They were extremely determined men who methodically reloaded their assault rifles.”

Witnesses overnight

About 100 witnesses to the massacre at Le Bataclan were interviewed by police overnight.

Officers are also studying DNA samples, fingerprints and CCTV footage in an effort to identify the attackers.

Anti-terrorist investigators and intelligence officers will also be checking the evidence against their files on known radicals.

Detailed information will emerge at 7pm French time, when the public prosecutor is due to hold a press conference.

Mr Hollande has also said there will be three days of national mourning in France, beginning on Sunday.

It’s the sixth time since the current republic was founded that a period of national mourning has been declared, but never has it stretched to three days.

Flags will fly at half-mast on all public buildings, and a minute’s silence will be observed across France at noon on Monday.

The most recent period of national mourning was last January, after the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and the HyperCacher supermarket at Porte de Vincennes. A similar gesture was made after 9/11.

Six sites in the French capital were targeted on Friday evening; gunmen opened fire at a rock concert and on customers in restaurants, and a series of bombs were detonated near the Stade de France, where the national football team was playing Germany in an international friendly.

Suicide vests

At least eight attackers are dead, seven of them after detonating explosive suicide vests. Witnesses to one shooting said police had told them at least one attacker was still at large.

Police confirmed overnight that six attacks separate attacks had taken place across Paris over a little over two hours.

Among those coordinating the emergency medical response in Paris on Friday night was Patrick Pelloux, the doctor and Charlie Hebdo writer who arrived at the satirical magazine’s offices just minutes after the gun attack in January that killed 11 people, including eight of his friends.

Speaking on Saturday morning, Mr Pelloux said off-duty surgeons, nurses and other medics rushed to work on Friday night to help the medical teams treating the wounded in about 50 hospitals in the Paris region.

Scenes of “carnage” had greeted emergency teams on the ground, he said. Even the most experienced among them had never seen anything like it.

As of 2pm Paris time on Saturday, more than 300 people remain in hospital, with 80 of them in a critical condition.

The Irish Embassy in Paris is providing consular assistance to one injured Irish citizen. All Irish citizens in Paris are advised to exercise caution and stay indoors.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny described the attacks as the “ blackest of black days for Paris, for France, for its citizens, and through them for the citizens of the free world.”

U2 has cancelled a concert scheduled for Paris on Saturday night. The band said it would reschedule the concert at a more appropriate date.

US president Barack Obama said the attacks were an “outrageous attempt” to terrorise innocent people. These were not just attacks on Paris but on all of humanity, he said.

Islamic State reportedly released an undated video on Saturday in which it threatened to attack France if it continued to bomb Syria.

The group’s foreign media arm, al-Hayat Media Centre, released footage of a militant who called on French Muslims to carry out attacks, Reuters said. “As long as you keep bombing you will not live in peace. You will even fear travelling to the market,” the figure said in Arabic, flanked by other fighters.

In the bloodiest incident, 87 people were reported killed inside the Bataclan concert venue in the 11th arrondissement, when gunmen opened fire on the crowd during a concert by US rock group Eagles of Death Metal.

Held hostage

Many people in the crowd were reportedly held hostage until armed police stormed the venue. Some of those inside the Bataclan told reporters three of the attackers detonated suicide belts as the French security forces closed in.

Video footage shot from outside the venue showed dead bodies in the street, dozens of people running from the entrance and survivors dragging the injured to safety. Witnesses described the scene inside the venue as a bloodbath.

Earlier reports suggested that as many as 157 people had been killed, before the Bataclan death toll was revised down significantly.

In a statement in Paris on Saturday morning, Mr Hollande said: “I pay homage to the country’s defenders who fought the terrorists yesterday. Everyone has given their upmost and will be putting in their best efforts in the day to come.”

He called the attacks “cowardly” and said every measure would be taken to fight what he called the terrorist threat. “In this most serious and uncertain time, I call for unity and courage. Even if France is wounded, she will rise.” He put the death toll at 127.

Paris prosecutor François Molins said at least eight attackers had been killed across the city, seven of them in suicide bombings. But one witness told the Guardian that officers had warned him at least one of the terrorists had still not been apprehended.

Psychotherapist Mark Colclough, a British-Danish national, was standing near a cafe on the Rue de La Fointaine au Roi in the 11th arrondissement when a gunman opened fire on patrons inside.

“He [the attacker] was standing in a shooting position. He had his right leg forward and he was standing with his left leg back. He was holding up to his left shoulder a long automatic machinegun - I saw it had a magazine beneath it.”

Mr Colclough said the man was left-handed and shooting in short bursts. “It was fully intentional, professional bursts of three or four shots.

“Everything he was wearing was tight, either boots or shoes and the trousers were tight, the jumper he was wearing was tight, no zippers or collars. Everything was toned black.

‘Combat soldier’

“If you think of what a combat soldier looks like, that is it - just without the webbing. Just a man in military uniform, black jumper, black trousers, black shoes or boots and a machinegun.”

Mr Colclough said police told him the killer he saw had not been caught.

“We were taken to the police station to give a witness statement. The gunman we saw has not been apprehended. They the police] confirmed that on the way out. We asked if it was safe to walk home and they said definitely not.”

Paris authorities warned people to remain indoors where possible and closed the Métro system.

The attacks come 10 months after 20 people died during attacks by Islamist gunmen on the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, located close to the Bataclan theatre, and at a kosher supermarket in Paris.

The French president, François Hollande, who was at the football match at the Stade de France at the time of the bomb blasts, cancelled plans to attend this weekend’s G20 summit in Turkey and convened a cabinet meeting. In a TV address to the nation, he declared a state of emergency, and closed the country’s borders.

“This is a terrible ordeal that again assails us,” Mr Hollande said. “We know where it comes from, who these criminals are, who these terrorists are.”

He said the attackers wanted “to scare us and fill us with dread”, but warned France’s retribution would be swift and unflinching.

‘A determined France’

“We are going to lead a war which will be pitiless. Because when terrorists are capable of committing such atrocities they must be certain that they are facing a determined France, a united France, a France that is together and does not let itself be moved, even if today we express infinite sorrow.”

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said she was “deeply shaken by the news and pictures that are reaching us from Paris.”

The British prime minister, David Cameron, who is still expected to travel to the G20 summit, said he was shocked by the events. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the French people. We will do whatever we can to help,” he added.

More world leaders, including many arriving in Vienna for Syria peace talks, have expressed horror at the attacks in Paris, including Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, who called the attacks “heinous”.

“I wanted to express our condolences to the government and people of France for the heinous terrorist attacks that took place yesterday which are in violation and contravention of all ethics, morals and religions,” Adel al-Jubeir told reporters in the Austrian capital.

“The kingdom of Saudi Arabia has long called for more intensified international efforts to combat the scourge of terrorism in all its forms and shapes.”

A spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry said it was inevitable the talks would be affected. “Those events which happened not far from here will absolutely cause adjustments in the agenda of today’s event,” Maria Zakharova told reporters.

Speaking from Moscow, the Russian prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, said Russia “shares the sadness and the pain of the French people. Terrorist crimes are not and cannot be justified. The Paris tragedy requires of us all to unite in the fight against extremism, to bring a strong answer to terrorists’ actions.”

‘Shooting blindly’

At the Bataclan theatre, concertgoer Julien Pearce said he saw two or three men armed with Kalashnikov-type rifles burst in midway through the concert and begin “shooting blindly at the crowd” for several minutes.

“Everyone was running in all directions towards the stage,” he said. “It was a stampede and even I was trampled on. I saw a lot of people hit by bullets. The gunmen had loads of time to reload at least three times. They weren’t masked; they knew what they were doing; they were very young.”

As the massacre unfolded inside, hundreds of officers carrying machineguns surrounded the building before storming it.

Jean-Pierre, a witness in the rue de Charonne in the 10th district, said he saw gunmen targeting picking off diners seated at restaurant tables. “It was horrible, horrible, horrible,” he told BFM television, choking back emotion.

Additional reporting: The Guardian / Agencies