Francois Hollande: Islamic State behind Paris ‘act of war’

Police activity by the Stade de France stadium in Paris, one of the venues for the attacks in the French capital. PIC: PA
Police activity by the Stade de France stadium in Paris, one of the venues for the attacks in the French capital. PIC: PA
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French president Francois Hollande has denounced the terror attacks which killed at least 127 people in Paris as an “act of war” and blamed the Islamic State terror group for the carnage.

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Speaking after an emergency meeting of senior government and security officials at the Elysee Palace, Mr Hollande announced three days of national mourning and vowed that France would be “pitiless” in its response to terrorism.

A manhunt is under way for accomplices of gunmen who targeted a concert hall and the French national football stadium and sprayed the terraces of bars and restaurants with gunfire in at least six separate attacks.

French authorities said they believed all eight of those involved in the attacks were dead - seven of them killed by suicide bombs - but Paris’s chief prosecutor said it was possible other terrorists were still on the run.

Policing was being strengthened at ports and major events in the UK, and Prime Minister David Cameron was due to chair a meeting of the Government’s Cobra emergency committee which could raise the official assessment of the threat from international terrorism from its current “severe” level.

In a statement issued by the Elysee Palace, Mr Hollande said: “What happened yesterday is an act of war, and the nation must take appropriate decisions in response.

“It is an act of absolute barbarism. At present, there are 127 dead and many injured. I have declared three days of national mourning.

“The army and security forces are mobilised at the highest possible level. France, as it has been subjected to cowardly aggression, will be pitiless towards the terrorists.

“France is united and taking action and it will triumph over barbarity. What we are defending is our country, but more than that, it is our values.”

In a night of carnage in the French capital:

• Police stormed the Bataclan concert hall where hostages were being held, but attackers, wearing suicide belts, blew themselves up, leaving 80 people feared dead. A witness said that one of the gunmen shouted “Allahu Akbar” and said “This is for Syria” - a possible reference to France’s participation in airstrikes against Islamic State.

• Two suicide attacks and a bombing took place at the Stade de France stadium, where Mr Hollande was among thousands of football fans watching the national side play a friendly fixture against Germany.

• Gunmen targeted bars and restaurants in the 10th and 11th arrondissements of central Paris. As many as 18 people died when the terrace of La Belle Equipe was sprayed with gunfire, while around 14 people were killed at Le Carillon bar-cafe. There was also a shooting at the nearby Cambodian restaurant Le Petit Cambodge.

A state of emergency was declared in France after the worst night of violence in the country since the Second World War.

Police leave was cancelled and some 1,500 extra soldiers have been mobilised to guard official buildings and religious sites, while controls have been re-imposed at the country’s borders.

The country’s schools and universities, which often open on Saturdays, have been ordered to remain closed.

Mr Hollande, who has cancelled a planned visit to Turkey for the G20 summit this weekend, is to address both houses of the French Parliament at Versailles on Monday.

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