FRENCH PRESIDENT FRANCOIS HOLLANDE declared a national emergency Friday night after a series of shootings, explosions, and a mass hostage taking left more than 128 dead in Paris. “As I speak, terrorist attacks of an unprecedented scale are taking place in the Paris region,” Hollande said in a nationally televised address during the attacks. “This is a terrible ordeal which once again assails us. We know where it comes from, who these criminals are, who these terrorists are.”
Six separate targets were hit by as many as eight attackers, including the legendary Bataclan concert hall, a popular Cambodian restaurant and the Stade de France football stadium, which was hosting a friendly match between the German and French national teams. At the match, which was evacuated after a series of explosions outside, Hollande himself had been in attendance.
Initial reports suggest that at least 128 people have been killed in the attacks, although the death toll is expected to rise.
The online terrorism tracking database Site Intelligence Group published a statement early Saturday in which the Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility for the attack, characterizing it as revenge for France’s participation in the international coalition fighting the group in Iraq and Syria. The group further threatened that the attack would be “just the beginning.”
In recent months, members of the group have made frequent threats to conduct attacks in France in response to French participation in the coalition. An attack against the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo earlier this year was claimed by militants linked to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, along with one man, Amedy Coulibaly, who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in a video released after the attacks.
Among the most deadly incidents last night was the taking of hostages at the Bataclan, which had been hosting a concert for the American band Eagles of Death Metal. More than 100 people are believed to have died during that incident alone. Conflicting witness reports have suggested that the theater was attacked by a number of suicide bombers, as well as by gunmen who fired onto the crowd for a sustained period of time.
In response to the attacks, unprecedented in modern French history, President Hollande ordered the closing of the country’s borders, and placed the city of Paris under mandatory curfew for the first time since World War II.
The attacks in Paris capped off a week of deadly terrorist incidents. On Thursday, a deadly bombing claimed by ISIS in a South Beirut neighborhood killed 44, while a suicide attack, also widely believed to have been committed by the group, killed 18 mourners at a funeral in Baghdad the following day.
Speaking at the scene of the Bataclan attack Friday night in Paris, in one of several speeches Hollande gave in the immediate wake of the attack, the French president promised harsh retribution against those responsible. “To all those who have seen these awful things, I want to say we are going to lead a fight which will be pitiless,” Hollande said.