National Security

ISIS claims responsibility for Paris attacks; over 120 killed

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The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has claimed responsibility for the string of attacks across Paris on Friday that killed at least 120 people — the deadliest evening the French capital has seen in a generation. 

The terror group released a statement in French and Arabic early Saturday, according to the Associated Press, hours after French President François Hollande blamed ISIS for the attacks.

The statement said France “will remain at the top of the list of targets of the Islamic State.”

{mosads}The group said the attack locations — which included a massive hostage incident at a popular concert venue — were specifically chosen to target “hundreds of apostates … attending an adulterous party.”

“The stench of death will not leave their noses as long as they remain at the forefront of the Crusaders’ campaign, dare to curse our prophet, boast of a war on Islam in France, and strike Muslims in the lands of the caliphate with warplanes that were of no use to them in the streets and rotten alleys of Paris,” ISIS said.

Hollande ordered unprecedented measures to clamp down on security following the incidents, and pledged to strike back at the group.

The Bataclan concert hall became the deadliest scene, where at least 100 hostages were reported to have been killed before a raid by French security forces killed at least three gunmen. 

The raid followed an hours-long standoff between security forces and the gunmen, who leapt to action during a concert by American rock band Eagles of Death Metal.

Separately, at least one explosion could be heard near a Paris stadium where a soccer match was underway between France and Germany. The explosion seemed to have been a suicide bomb, multiple reports indicated. 

Hollande was in the stadium watching the match and was evacuated to the interior ministry, where he coordinated the country’s response to the violence before ordering the extended security precautions.

Separately, French media said that at least one man opened fire with an automatic gun at a restaurant in central Paris, where 11 people were killed.

All perpetrators of the attacks are believed to be dead, the AP reported late Friday, citing the head of the Paris police.

A Syrian passport was found on the body of one of the bombers outside the soccer stadium, the AP reported Saturday. 

State Department deputy spokesperson Mark Toner indicated Americans are among the injured, BuzzFeed News reported.

“‎The U.S. government is working closely with French authorities to identify American victims. We are aware there are Americans among the injured, and are offering them the full range of consular assistance,” he said.

President Obama condemned the attacks in brief comments from the White House, stating that the United States stood ready to assist the French government in its response. 

“Once again, we’ve seen an outrageous attempt to terrorize innocent civilians,” Obama said. “This is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values that we share.

“Those who think that they can terrorize the people of France or the values that they stand for are wrong,” Obama added. 

The president said U.S. officials were in contact with French counterparts to offer condolences to those affected by the attacks.

In an address to his nation as the hostage situation was still unfolding, Hollande said the country had declared a state an emergency. He also made the unprecedented decision to close its borders in response to the crisis.

“We have to assure ourselves that no one can enter to commit any act, whatever that may be,” Hollande said.

“We know where this is coming from, who these terrorists are,” he said, in comments that seemed to point the finger at Islamic extremists such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

“In such difficult times, I have thought for the victims — for there are numerous victims — for the families, for the wounded,” Hollande said, in somber yet defiant remarks.

“What the terrorists want is to make us afraid, to seize us with fear,” he said. “There is something to be afraid of, but faced with this fear, there’s a nation which defends itself and mobilizes itself and which will once again be able to overcome the terrorists.”

Hollande canceled his plans to attend the G-20 summit in Antalya, Turkey, multiple news outlets reported, noting that he would be sending representatives in his place.

1,500 extra French troops were deployed to Paris following the attacks, Agence France-Presse reported.

Despite the lack of an immediate claim of responsibility, analysts immediately suspected that the violence was the result of a plot from Islamic extremists.

Hollande said the country had mobilized all possible forces to  be “ruthless in our fight.”

“To all those who have seen these awful things, I want to say we are going to lead a war which will be pitiless,” he said after visiting the Bataclan concert hall once the hostage situation had ended. “Because when terrorists are capable of committing such atrocities they must be certain that they are facing a determined France, a united France, a France that is together and does not let itself be moved, even if today we express infinite sorrow.”

France has been a major source of Islamic extremists traveling to join groups such as ISIS, noted Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

“[T]he risk from those who return is well known and severe,” he said in a statement on Friday.

Local radio journalist Julien Pearce, who was inside the concert hall, said on CNN that men clad in black, who were not wearing masks, opened fire without saying anything. 

“Some of them were dead, some of them were very badly wounded,” he said of the around 20 bodies he saw on the ground. “It was a bloodbath.”

It was not known whether any of the people killed were American citizens.

The U.S. embassy in Paris is “making every effort to account for the welfare of American citizens,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement.

“These are heinous, evil, vile acts,” he added. “We stand with the French people tonight, as our peoples have always stood together in our darkest hours.”

In the U.S., both the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the FBI were “closely monitoring” the situation in Paris, a DHS official said.

“At this time, there is no specific or credible threat to the United States,” the official added. “We will not hesitate to adjust our security posture, as appropriate, to protect the American people.”

Police departments in New York and Washington, D.C., also heightened their activity in the wake of the crisis.

In Washington, Mayor Muriel Bowser ordered additional police presence to sites owned by France as well as major landmarks, out of “an abundance of caution.”

Friday’s violence will likely stir up a debate over whether new security measures are warranted in the U.S. and other nations.

The violence follows bombings in Beirut, Lebanon, that killed more than 40 people on Thursday, as well as last month’s downing of a Russian plane in Egypt. ISIS claimed responsibly for both incidents, which sparked new concern about the group’s ability to reach beyond its borders in Iraq and Syria.

Friday’s string of violence quickly evoked memories of January shootings, including a slaughter at the headquarters of French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which killed a total of 17 people over the course of three days.

That incident, which was attributed the newspaper’s depictions of the Prophet Mohammed, renewed concerns about Islamic extremism on both sides of the Atlantic. In addition to the newspaper shooting, one police officer and four others in a Jewish deli were later killed.

Jesse Byrnes and Jordan Fabian contributed

– Updated at 8:39 a.m. on November 14

Tags Adam Schiff Barack Obama France François Hollande John Kerry

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