Paris, Nov 14: At least 127 people were killed and over 200 injured as eight Islamic State terrorists, armed with automatics and wearing suicide vests, unleashed Mumbai-style mayhem in six crowded areas of Paris, shocking the world and drawing international condemnation. There was, however, no report of any Indian killed or wounded in the horrific attack.
For the first time since World War II, curfew was imposed in Paris. French President Francois Hollande declared a state of emergency and vowed to hit back.
The killers targeted crowded theatres, cafes and tourist spots on Friday night. All entry and exit points in France, normally open, were now being controlled.
“Faced with terror, France must be strong,” a shaken Hollande said, adding “we will be”. France “knows how to defend itself, knows how to mobilise its forces and, once again, will defeat the terrorists”.
Hollande, who called the terror attack “an act of war”, put the toll at 127 although initial reports had said more than 150 were killed.
“This is for Syria!” shouted one of the attackers as he sprayed bullets. A Syrian passport was found on the body of one of the suicide bombers, French TV channel BFMTV reported.
An Islamic State statement on Saturday claimed responsibility for the attack, The Independent online reported.
The group in a statement in Arabic and French called Paris the “capital of abominations and perversion” and said the attacks were carried out by eight “brothers”.
This week, France, a member of the US-led coalition combating the Islamic State, struck the group’s strategic targets in Syria.
The terrorists — all of whom were killed — also targeted the Stade de France stadium where Hollande was among the thousands viewing a France-Germany soccer match. He was quickly evacuated.
At the stadium, people heard two bangs outside, in the first half of the match, and a smaller one in the second half.
One witness said the killers didn’t wear masks, looked young and were a determined lot — ready to kill and die.
The most horrific attack took place at the nearly 150-year-old Bataclan theatre where the terrorists burst in when rock band Eagles of the Death Metal was playing, ordered everyone to lie down and then began spraying bullets. Members of the band made it out safely.
A journalist at the venue said the gunmen reloaded their automatics at least thrice, took people hostages and, as security forces stormed the hall, blew themselves up, killing over 100 civilians.
The Islamic State singled out the football match and rock concert, calling it “perverse”, suggesting the targets were deliberately chosen.
It blamed France for a “crusade” against Muslims, both in its military operations in Syria and Iraq and laws at home, and threatened more attacks in the future.
BBC quoted journalist Julien Pierce as saying: “Several armed men came in. Two or three men, not wearing masks, had what looked like Kalashnikovs and fired blindly on the crowd. It lasted between 10 to 15 minutes. It was extremely violent and there was panic. The attackers had enough time to reload at least three times. They were very young… There were bodies everywhere.”
Hollande visited the bloodied concert hall and vowed revenge. The terrorists, he announced, would be fought “without mercy”. “It’s horror,” he said.
He also cancelled his visit to the two-day G20 Summit at Antalya in Turkey from Saturday.
Customers were singled out at a pizza restaurant, a Cambodian restaurant, a bar and a McDonald’s outlet.
Ben Grant, who was with his wife at a bar that was attacked, said they heard gunshots and saw people dropping to the ground. “There are lots of dead people. It was pretty horrific… We put a table over our heads to protect us.”
On Saturday, French security forces announced that all the attackers were dead — one gunned down and seven others blowing themselves up. A hunt was on for possible accomplices.
Paris residents were told to stay indoors as the city swarmed with soldiers. Ambulances with sirens wailing rushed the injured to hospitals.
There was no report of any Indian casualty, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Saturday.
Deputy Chief of Mission Manish Prabhat also said there was no report of any Indian being killed. Prabhat said Paris was home to some 100,000 Indians.
US President Barack Obama and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon led the international community in denouncing the mindless violence.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, now in Britain, described the attack as “anguishing and dreadful” and said New Delhi stood with the people of France at this tragic hour.
President Pranab Mukherjee added: “Strongly condemn terrorist attacks in Paris. India stands firmly with France, my heart goes out to its people.”
Bangladeshi President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also condemned the attacks, while Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif offered “support to bring the perpetrators of the Paris attacks to justice”.
Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed the “strongest” condemnation, while British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said they were “deeply shocked”.
Irish rock band U2’s upcoming concert in Paris was cancelled following the terror attack. (IANS)