PARIS – The death toll in a series of terror attacks in the French capital have surpassed 150, it is feared as the Paris prosecutor said five attackers may have been killed.
Terrorists wielding AK-47s and hurling explosives executed at least 118 people inside a Paris concert hall late Friday night, in a massacre that followed coordinated attacks that killed at least 40 more people, rocking the French capital — prompting President Francois Hollande to close the entire nation’s borders and order a state of emergency.
The carnage inside the music venue ended around midnight local time when French police stormed inside, killing three Kalashnikov-toting gunmen who witnesses said wore flak jackets as they slaughtered horrified spectators. The victims had gathered to see the American rock band Eagles of Death Metal, and a handful managed to escape to tell of the horror taking place inside where the killers shouted “This is for Syria!” and “Alahu Akhbar!” as they cut down patrons from a balcony before the band took the stage.
Julien Pierce, a Europe 1 journalist who was inside the Bataclan, described what he saw to the BBC.
“It lasted between 10 and 15 minutes,” he said. “It was extremely violent and there was panic. The attackers had enough time to reload at least three times. They were very young.”
Marc Coupris, 57, still shaking after being freed from inside the Bataclan, told The Guardian he thought he would soon be dead.
“It looked like a battlefield, there was blood everywhere, there were bodies everywhere,” Coupris said. “I was at the far side of the hall when shooting began. There seemed to be at least two gunmen. They shot from the balcony.
“I saw my final hour unfurl before me, I thought this was the end. I thought, ‘I’m finished, I’m finished,'” he said.
French authorities said five attackers were “neutralized, one arrested and more could be at large in the combined attacks.
As many as six other attacks occurred, involving shootings and at least two suicide bombers, including one who detonated near the city’s Stade de France soccer stadium where the French and German national teams were playing in a match attended by Hollande. The death toll from all of the attacks was expected to climb, and more than 60 were reportedly wounded in grim, early tallies
“There are lots of dead people,” said a witness believed to have been at the bar of a restaurant that was the scene of one attack. “It’s pretty horrific to be honest. I was at the back of the bar. I couldn’t see anything. I heard gunshots. People dropped to the ground. We put a table over our heads to protect us.”
“There are lots of dead people. It’s pretty horrific to be honest.”
– Witness to attack on restaurant
One man was reportedly arrested, and Twitter accounts linked to ISIS celebrated the attacks, but no terror organizations immediately claimed credit. A gunman at one of the attacks, at Petit Cambodge, a Cambodian restaurant in the city’s fashionable 10th arrondisement, was also reportedly heard shouting “This is for Syria!” as he sprayed gunfire at horrified patrons, witnesses said. Another attack took place at a Forum Des Halles, a shopping mall. It was unclear how many people were kiled at each of the attacks.
In a brief address following the nation’s deadliest day since World War II, Hollande, who was rapidly evacuated from the stadium following the first explosion declared the entire nation under a state of emergency and ordered all borders closed. The president said “unprecedented terrorist attacks were underway,” and his decree meant no one can leave or enter the nation until the order is lifted.
“France needs to be strong,’ a somber Hollande said. “What the terrorists want is for us to be scared. In the face of terror, we must be united.”
Eyewitness Ben Grant said he was in a bar with his wife when the gunshots were fired and he had seen six or seven bodies on the ground. He told the BBC: “I was told people in cars had opened fire on the bar.
Economist columnist Jeremy Cliffe tweeted about the concert hall attack, “some escaped, describing pools of blood and attackers using pump-action shotgun against crowd inside.”
Inside the soccer stadium, stunned spectators huddled together following the explosions, as word of what happened spread. French Football Federation President Noël Le Graët said at least three people were killed and an unknown number injured in the explosion outside the soccer stadium’s main gate. He later issued a statement as midnight approached saying that the danger had passed for those in the facility.
“The Stade de France is secure,” he said. “There is no longer any danger, people will leave normally.”
The attacks spanned at least two Paris districts, the 10th and 11th arrondisements. The 10th arrondisement is a cosmopolitan district lined with restaurants and cafes. It also is the location of the two famed train stations Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est. The 11th arrondissement is located on the Right Bank of the River Seine and is one of the capital’s most populated urban districts, with nearly 150,000 residents. In recent years it also has emerged as one of the trendiest of the city’s neighborhoods.
U.S. Homeland Security Department officials monitoring the attacks in Paris say there is no known, credible threat against the United States. New York and Boston were put on high alert in the wake of the attacks.
President Obama, in a hastily-arranged address Friday evening, called the attack an act of terrorism by people with “a hateful vision.”
“This is an outrageous attempt to terrorize innocent civilians,” Obama said. “This is an attack not just on Paris, not just on France, but an attack on all of humanity and the values that we share.”
Obama, who said he had spoken with Hollande earlier in the day about an upcoming economic conference, said the U.S. stands ready to help France, which he called “an extraordinary counter-terrorism partner,” in the investigation.
A U.S. military and intelligence source told Fox News the coordinated attacks likely required “months of planning,” based on their sheer number, the locations including a site where the president was present and the variety of weapons used.
Asked if any Americans were hurt or killed, a French diplomat told Fox News that given the venues and the numbers involved, the victims “are not going to be all French.”
Terror struck in Paris near the same neighborhood earlier this year, when two Islamic radical gunmen stormed the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 and wounding 11. The gunmen, brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi, struck to avenge Muslims for the magazine’s publication of cartoons that they believed mocked the Prophet Mohammed. The brothers were killed two days later after a manhunt was capped when police shot the two in a standoff in Dammartin-en-Goele.
During the dragnet, Amedy Coulibaly, an associate of the pair, attacked a Jewish grocery store in Paris, taking more than a dozen hostage and killing four. Coulibaly had killed a policewoman the day before. Couliably was killed when police stormed the kosher market.