At least 129 people were killed after multiple shootings and explosions across Paris late Friday night and some 352 people injured, 99 seriously, in the deadliest violence in France since the Second World War.
Gunmen systematically slaughtered as many as 87 people attending a rock concert at the Bataclan music hall where the Californian rock group Eagles of Death Metal was performing, according to French officials. Anti-terrorist commandos eventually launched an assault on the building.
More than 40 people were killed in attacks at five other locations, including restaurants and cafes and a double suicide bombing outside the national stadium Stade de France in the northern part of Paris. Several explosions were heard near the stadium where a friendly soccer match between France and Germany was being held. At least one of the attackers had reportedly tried to enter the stadium but his suicide vest was discovered by security at the gate.
The assailants operated in three teams and had almost certainly coordinated their attack, authorities said. Seven attackers carried Kalashnikov assault rifles and had blown themselves up with explosive belts.
French President Francois Hollande called it an “unprecedented terrorist attack” and an “act of war” orchestrated by the Islamic extremist IS militia. The IS on Saturday claimed responsibility for the bombing and shooting.
President Hollande declared a state of emergency – the first since the end of World War II – and three days of national mourning. He also closed the country’s borders and vowed retaliation.
A hunt for possible accomplices and any gunmen that may have escaped was carried on through the weekend. Seven people were arrested in Belgium in connection with the attacks and two cars with more ammunitions were discovered by police in and near Paris. Two of the assailants carried French passports and had been staying in Brussels before the attack was carried out. At least one of the alleged terrorists passed through Greece in October as a refugee coming from Turkey, authorities in Athens said Saturday night.
The attack comes as France has heightened security measures ahead of a major global climate conference that starts in two weeks, out of fear of violent protests and potential terrorist attacks.
Mr. Hollande had been attending the soccer match and was rushed back to the interior ministry to deal with the situation.
German Foreign Minister Frank Steinmeier called the terror attacks in Paris an “inferno of terror,” speaking Saturday morning on the sidelines of the Syrian talks in Vienna. Mr. Steinmeier, who was also in the stadium sitting next to Mr. Hollande, said the “the extent of the horror … exceeds everyone’s imagination.”
Speaking to reporters in Berlin early Saturday, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany stands ready to help France in whichever way it can because the attack “was aimed not just at Paris, it targeted and it hits all of us.”
Ms. Merkel expressed grief for those who died, saying they wanted to live “the life of free people in a city that celebrates freedom” and were the victims of “murderers who hate precisely this life of freedom.”
The chancellor met with her ministers and other officials to discuss support for France and also security measures in Germany. The police in Germany were placed on high alert.
“The government and people of France need to respond to these attacks,” U.S. President Obama Barack said late Friday in a televised statement at the White House. “We stand together with them in the fight against terrorism and extremism,” adding the United States “will do what it takes … to bring these terrorists to justice.”
Sirens, ambulances and anti-terrorist squads filled the streets of the 11th district in central Paris late Friday. As many as 1,500 soldiers were called in to help. All public venues within Paris were to remain closed on Saturday.
Earlier in the night, two explosions loud enough to penetrate the sounds of cheering fans could be heard, sports reporters of German broadcaster ARD said. Players briefly stopped in their tracks when they heard the twin blasts.
Sirens were immediately heard, and a helicopter was circling overhead. Following news of the attack, thousands of fans – too scared to leave the stadium – poured onto the pitch.
It is possible that an additional attacker may have been prevented from reaching the city. Bavarian Governor Horst Seehofer said one man from Montenegro was arrested last Thursday in the state, and may have been on his way to Paris. Public radio Bayrische Rundfunk said the man was found with several guns, pistols, ammunition, machine guns and TNT explosives in his car.
The Bataclan concert venue is in the same neighborhood as the former offices of the satirical Charlie Hebdo weekly magazine. In January, Islamic extremists in January raided the offices and a nearby kosher grocery store that left 20 dead, including the three attackers.
Early Friday, the German national soccer team was evacuated from its hotel briefly because of a bomb threat. The team spent the evening in the stadium after being advised by security forces not to return to the hotel and has since returned to Germany.
There is already some concern about UEFA European Football Championship next year in France, which won the bid to host the tournament. The games are scheduled take place in 10 cities, including Paris with both the kick-off game and final to be played at the Stade de France.
John Blau and Christopher Cermak are editors with Handelsblatt Global Edition in Berlin. Handelsblatt staff contributed to this story. To contact the authors: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com