Friday night in what appeared to be one of the deadliest coordinated terrorist attacks to ever strike France, a shooting rampage, explosions and mass hostage taking convulsed the Paris area. The New York Times reports French television and news services quoted the police as saying at least 60 people had been killed and many dozens wounded in at least four attacks. This is far worse than the deaths and chaos that rage in Paris in the Charlie Hebdo massacre and related assaults around the French capital less than a year ago.
Currently no one is claiming responsibility. However, celebratory messages by members and ISIS sympathizers, the extremist group based in Syria and Iraq that is under assault by major powers including the United States, France and Russia exploded on Twitter.
The American band the Eagles of Death Metal was at a popular concert hall, Le Bataclan. This is where the main shooting appears to have broken out. Forcing the hasty evacuation of President François Hollande, French television reported that one of at least two explosions had struck near Paris at the country’s main sports stadium where the president was watching Germany and France in a soccer match. Hollande quickly convened an emergency cabinet meeting.
A witness quoted by BFM television said he heard rounds of automatic rifle fire and someone shouting “Allahu akbar!” at The Bataclan. French television reported that police were ordering people in the area to get off the streets. I was also reported that Kalashnikov rifles had been involved in the shootings. It is a favored weapon of militants who have attacked other targets in France and many rounds had been fired. The former headquarters of Charlie Hebdo, the satirical newspaper where shootings by Islamic militants traumatized France in January, are where the shootings occurred.
According to U.S.News, dozens of hostages were reportedly still being held in Le Bataclan. CNN reported that police had exchanged gunfire with attackers on the roof of the building who shot at them as they attempted to enter the hall. Those inside were posting messages to Facebook and Twitter indicating six to eight attackers were killing hostages one by one and pleading with police for help. At the same time, network offered a chilling account of attackers searching the building for anyone who might be hiding. The incidents began unfolding at about 5 p.m. EST, according to reports.
“This is an outrageous attempt to terrorize innocent civilians. This is an attack not just on Paris, not just an attack on the people of France, but it is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values we share,” President Barack Obama said during a hastily arranged briefing at the White House.
Obama, is scheduled to depart for a global economic conference in Turkey on Sunday and Monday. He did say, however, that he wouldn’t speculate on who was responsible for the incident.
Unlike President Obama, the French president was not shy about putting a name to the perpetrators. “This is a terrible hardship,” Hollande said. “What the terrorists want is to make us afraid, to seize us with fear.” Scattered reports on social media and initial witness accounts mentioned things like suicide bombs and gunmen shouting phrases typically associated with Islamic extremism, but confirmation has been slow.