•352 injured – 99 in critical condition
By Wale Akinola, Abiodun Alade, with agency reports
Pope Francis has described the deadly terror attacks on Paris, the capital of France, which left no fewer than 129 people killed, as part of “the Third World War”, just as the country is now under a state of emergency.Francis said, yesterday, he was “shaken” by what he described as the “inhuman” attacks on a string of Paris venues, lamenting that he did not “understand these things, done by human beings…”
“There cannot be justification, religious or human. It’s inhuman,” an emotional Pope Francis said during a telephone interview with TG2000 television.When asked whether he thought this was part of a “piecemeal Third World War” that he had made reference to in the past, he said “this is a piece of it”.The scale of the attacks gave way to the thinking that death toll could rise.
352 victims were injured, 99 of them critically. In an online statement, militant group, Islamic State, IS, claimed responsibility.The attackers ruthlessly sought out soft targets where people were getting their weekends underway: a busy concert venue, restaurants and bars, the French national stadium where an international soccer game was being played.Already, French security agencies have identified three of the attackers as French, Syrian and Egyptian nationals.
There is heightened security presence in most European cities yesterday.Arrests are on-going: One person was reportedly arrested at Gatwick Airport in the United Kingdom; some arrests were made in Belgium and authorities are claiming that there is a connection between the raids and the deadly attacks in France.
One of the vehicles used in the Belgium attack was said to have been traced to a particular location.
’Ten horrific minutes
’The attack on the 1,500-seat Bataclan hall, where the concert was taking place, was, by far, the deadliest – over 100 Parisians were killed there alone. The event had been sold out.French President Francois Hollande, visibly flustered, called the simultaneous attacks “a horror” and vowed to wage a “merciless” fight against terrorism.He described it as “an act of war”.The assaults are the deadliest in Europe since the 2004 Madrid, Spain bombings.What began as a regular Friday night of Parisians and tourists out eating and drinking in the city descended into scenes of savage bloodshed.Heavily armed tactical police units and other emergency workers swarmed the scenes of the attacks, many of which hit popular nightlife areas.
At the Bataclan, a concert hall in an eastern part of central Paris, gunmen stormed the venue as an American rock band, Eagles of Death Metal, was nearing the end of a show.”People yelled, screamed,” said Julien Pearce, a journalist who was at the event. “It lasted for 10 minutes.
Ten horrific minutes where everybody was on the floor covering their head.
”At first we thought it was part of the show but we quickly understood,” Pierre Janaszak, a radio presenter, told Agence France Presse.He said the gunmen took 20 hostages, and he heard one of them tell their captives: “It’s the fault of Hollande, it’s the fault of your president, he should not have intervened in Syria”.Within an hour, security forces had stormed the concert hall and all four attackers there were dead.
Three had blown themselves up and a fourth was shot dead by police.Meanwhile, not far from the Place de la Republique and the Place de la Bastille, three busy restaurants and a bar were targeted by gunmen armed with Kalashnikovs.Around 40 people were killed as customers were singled out at venues including a pizza restaurant and a Cambodian restaurant, Le Petit Cambodge.”We heard the sound of guns, 30-second bursts. It was endless. We thought it was fireworks,” Pierre Montfort, a resident living close to Le Petit Cambodge said.
The other target was the Stade de France, on the northern fringe of Paris, where President Hollande and 80,000 other spectators were watching a friendly international between France and Germany, with a TV audience of millions more.The president was whisked to safety after the first of at least two explosions just outside the venue to convene an emergency cabinet meeting.
Three attackers were reportedly killed there.Police believe all of the gunmen are dead – seven killed themselves with explosives vests and one was shot dead by the security forces – but it is unclear if any accomplices are still on the run.’A scene straight out of a war’A little further north, Charlotte Brehaut and a friend were dining in Le Petit Cambodge, a Cambodian restaurant in the Canal St. Martin neighbourhood of the city.”All of a sudden we heard huge gunshots and glass coming through the windows. We ducked with the other diners,” she said.
The gunfire also reportedly hit Le Carillon, a bar across the street from the restaurant.”We were listening to music when we heard what we thought were the sounds of firecrackers,” a doctor from a nearby hospital who was drinking in the bar with colleagues told Le Monde.
“A few moments later, it was a scene straight out of a war. Blood everywhere.
Obama leads chorus of world outrage
US President Barack Obama led a chorus of global condemnation of the wave of attacks on Paris.Besides Obama, Britain, Spain and India, which have experienced their own mass-casualty attacks, were among the first to voice their condemnation.
”It’s an attack not just on the people of France. But this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values we share,” the US President said in an address at the White House.”We’re going to do whatever it takes to work with the French people and with nations around the world to bring these terrorists to justice and to go after any terrorist networks that go after our people.
”German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she will meet with ministers over the series of attacks in Paris, as she pledged to “do everything” to help France in its fight against terrorists.In London, where 52 people were killed and hundreds wounded in a series of coordinated suicide bombings in 2005, British Prime Minister David Cameron said: “We will do whatever we can to help.”Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo, the foreign minister of Spain, where 191 people were killed in train bombings in 2004, raised the specter of a jihadist attack.
”All of this confirms that we are facing an unprecedented challenge, a hugely cruel challenge,” he told public television TVE.Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose country was hit by two major attacks in 2006 and 2008 that saw a total of 355 people killed, said on Twitter the “news from Paris is anguishing & dreadful”.
France’s Jewish community was among the targets of the last attacks Paris in January and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu added his voice to the condemnation.”Israel stands shoulder to shoulder with French President Francois Hollande and with the people of France in our common battle against terrorism,” he said.President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, where twin bombings on a peace rally in Ankara last month killed 102 people, offered his condolences.
European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini tweeted that she was “in the process of following with pain and dread the events in Paris”.And in Australia, where a lone gunman reportedly shouting Islamist slogans killed a man outside police headquarters in Sydney last month, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said “this is indeed a black Friday for France and for the world”.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull praised the French people for their response, describing France as “the home of freedom”.Elsewhere in Asia, where people woke up to the news from Paris, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan of Singapore, which raised its alert level, said “this is a terrible assault on a beautiful city with warm, cheerful, hospitable people”.Philippine President Benigno Aquino’s government, which is preparing to host the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit on November 18-19, said the Paris attacks demanded “heightened security from all of us”.Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke of “these tragic times for the French people” as he condemned “in the strongest ways this barbarous act.”Afghan chief executive Abdullah Abdullah tweeted that “these brutal, barbaric & coward attacks show that terrorists have no religion… Global efforts must eliminate terrorism.
”Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan, for his part, condemned “this act of terror… this brutal carnage” while Japan’s foreign minister Fumio Kishida said he was “shocked and angry”.Moscow called for the international community to unite in its fight against terrorism.”This tragedy has become another testimony of terrorism’s barbarity, which poses a challenge to human civilisation,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a telegram to French counterpart Hollande, according to the Kremlin.
The “heinous” Paris attacks are a violation of all religions and underline the need to intensify efforts against “terrorism,” Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said as he arrived for talks on ending Syria’s civil war.Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi condemned the attacks, saying they showed the need for action against militants worldwide.
The head of Sunni Islam’s leading seat of learning, Cairo’s Al-Azhary, condemned the “hateful” attacks in Paris and urged global unity against extremism.Syria’s Assad: Paris attacks result of French policySyrian President Bashar al-Assad said French policy had contributed to the “spread of terrorism” that culminated in gun and bomb attacks.
In a meeting with a delegation of French lawmakers in Damascus, Assad said France’s “mistaken policies… had contributed to the spread of terrorism.”Iran’s Rouhani postpones Europe tripHassan Rouhani, yesterday, postponed what would have been the first visit to Europe by an Iranian president in 10 years after the attacks which he described as “crimes against humanity.”Rouhani had been due to hold talks in Rome, yesterday, with Pope Francis as well as Italian counterpart Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi before travelling on to the French capital.