Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a deadly wave of bombings and shootings across Paris that has left nearly 130 people dead and which the French president, François Hollande, denounced as an “act of war”. Paris police reported that at least 128 people had been killed and 180 more injured – including 80 seriously – in the six attacks, the deadliest in Europe since the 2004 Madrid railway bombings.
Eight militants also died. Isis said it had dispatched jihadis wearing suicide bomb belts and carrying machine guns around the French capital on Friday night in a coordinated series of attacks intended to show that France would remain one of its main targets as long as its present policies continued.
“France and those who follow her voice must know that they remain the main target of Islamic State and that they will continue to smell the odour of death for having led the crusade, for having dared to insult our prophet, for having boasted of fighting Islam in France and striking Muslims in the caliphate with their planes,” the group said in a statement. Hollande described the attacks as cowardly and “an act of war” that had been carefully “prepared, organised and planned from outside the country by Islamic State, but with help from inside”. “Faced with war, the country must take appropriate action,” the president said. He did not say what form that action might take.
These were attacks “against France, against the values that we defend everywhere in the world, against what we are: a free country that means something to the whole planet,” Hollande said,
Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said Saturday that French policy had contributed to the “spread of terrorism” that culminated in attacks claimed by the Islamic State group which killed 128 people in Paris.
“What France suffered from savage terror is what the Syrian people have been enduring for five years,” Assad reportedly said during his meeting on Saturday with a visiting delegation of French lawmakers, according to the pan-Arab al-Mayadeen TV. In a jab at France, the embattled leader said “the wrong policies of the West, including France, in the Arab region have contributed to the spread of terrorism.”
The state news agency SANA cited Assad as telling the French lawmakers that the Paris attacks could not be separated from the deadly bombings that rocked Lebanon’s capital Beirut on Thursday, during which over 40 people were killed, and the five years of Syrian conflict.
Two police officers told French media that a Syrian passport was found on the body of one of the suicide bombers, but no identities or nationalities have been officially released officially. No arrests had been made by Saturday morning and it was not clear if any suspected gunmen were still on the loose. Police said they were were screening hours of CCTV footage from the six locations where the attacks took place.
France would observe three days of official mourning, the president said. He said that in the meantime “all measures to protect our compatriots and our territory are being taken within the framework of the state of emergency” that has been declared.
Islamic State also released an undated video on Saturday calling on Muslims to continue attacking France. Its foreign media arm, Al-Hayat Media Centre, filmed a number of militants – apparently French citizens – sitting cross-legged in an unidentified location and burning their passports.
“As long as you keep bombing you will not live in peace. You will even fear travelling to the market,” one of the militants, identified as “Abu Maryam the Frenchman”, told the camera. Addressing his fellow jihadis, he said: “Indeed, you have been ordered to fight the infidel wherever you find him. What are you waiting for? There are weapons and cars available and targets ready to be hit.”
The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, said Paris had been targeted because as a city “strengthened by its diversity”, it was “unbearable for fanatics”. “The message we want to give them is that we will be stronger than those who wish to reduce us to silence,” she said.
As Parisians queued to give blood for the wounded victims, a Muslim community leader, Nadir Kahia, said he feared a “tsunami of hatred” against Muslims and residents of the capital’s poorer districts.
But the reality is that a series of co-ordinated attacks on the scale and sophistication of what hit Paris on 13 November requires weeks, at least, of planning, which indicate the French government is not doing enough security wise in stopping this kind of attacks, considering series of attacks the city has experience in recent time.