Parisians awoke Saturday morning to a city on lockdown hours after eight terrorists wielding AK-47s and wearing suicide belts carried out coordinated attacks at six sites around the French capital, killing at least 120 people and wounding at least 200 others in the city’s deadliest day since World War II.
The attack was the worst terror atrocity to befall a Western European city since 191 people were killed in a series of train bombings in Madrid, Spain on March 11, 2004.
The most horrifying scene took place at the Bataclan concert hall in the center of Paris, where authorities said four attackers sprayed bullets into a crowd watching a performance by the American rock band Eagles of Death Metal. Reuters reported that the latest estimate from a Paris city hall official was that at least 87 people had died at the venue, though earlier reports suggested that as many as 118 concert-goers were killed.
The bloodshed prompted French President Francois Hollande to declare a state of emergency, order the deployment of 1,500 troops around Paris and announce renewed border checks along frontiers that are normally open under Europe’s free-travel zone.
Hollande convened a special security meeting Saturday morning after vowing to be « merciless » with the nation’s foes following what he called unprecedented terrorist attacks.
Police storm concert hall in Paris
« A determined France, a united France, a France that joins together and a France that will not allow itself to be staggered even if today, there is infinite emotion faced with this disaster, this tragedy, which is an abomination, because it is barbarism, » Hollande said.
French police said early Saturday they believed all of the attackers were dead but they were still searching for possible accomplices.
The French prosecutor’s office said seven of the eight assailants died in suicide bombings, the Associated Press reported.
In addition to the exact death toll, much about the attackers remains unknown, including their nationality and their motives.
No terror group had claimed responsibility for the attack as of early Saturday, though several social media accounts associated with the ISIS terror group posted messages celebrating the carnage.
The uncertain atmosphere was heightened by the city’s announcement late Friday that many of its public places would be closed Saturday. The city’s official Twitter account posted a message saying « schools, museums, libraries, gyms, swimming pools, [and] public markets » would be among the metropolitan amenities shut down. Disneyland Paris, one of Europe’s most popular attractions, announced that it would be closed Saturday « in light of the recent tragic events in France and in support of our community and the victims of these horrendous attacks. »
Agence France Presse, citing a security source, reported that 80 of the wounded were « seriously injured » in the attacks.
The near-simultaneous assaults began at approximately 9:30 p.m. local time Friday (3:30 p.m. EST), when gunfire exploded outside of a restaurant in a trendy area east of the center of Paris known as Little Cambodia.
It was the first of a series of attacks on a string of popular cafes, crowded on the unusually balmy Friday night.
Paris prosecutor Francois Molins told reporters at least 37 people were killed in those shootings.
“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.
A few moments later, three suicide bombs targeted locations around the Stade de France, the country’s national stadium in the northern suburb of Saint-Denis, where Hollande had joined almost 80,000 soccer fans to watch an international soccer friendly between France and Germany. A police union official told the Associated Press that at least three people were killed as a result of those blasts.
Hollande was rushed from the stadium after the first explosion, as initial reports of the attacks trickled in. However, despite the explosions being audible on television, the match was not stopped and several thousand fans went onto the field after France’s 2-0 win, apparently believing it was the safest place in the midst of the unfolding terror.
Supporters were eventually allowed to leave the stadium in small groups, and some were caught on video singing France’s national anthem as they left the venue.
Four attackers then stormed the Bataclan, where concertgoers described a horrifying scene.
Witnesses said the attackers toted Kalashnikovs and wore flak jackets as they fired indiscriminately into the crowd.
Some survivors claimed the men shouted « Allahu Akbar » or « This is for Syria » as they fired.
“It looked like a battlefield, there was blood everywhere, there were bodies everywhere, » Marc Coupris told the Guardian newspaper after being freed from the hostage situation. « 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.
Sylvain, 38, collapsed in tears as he recounted the attack, the chaos, and his escape during a lull in gunfire. He spoke on condition that his full name not be used out of concern for his safety.
« I was watching the concert in the pit, in the midst of the mass of the audience, » he told the Associated Press. « First I heard explosions, and I thought it was firecrackers. »
« Very soon I smelled powder, and I understood what was happening. There were shots everywhere, in waves. I lay down on the floor. I saw at least two shooters, but I heard others talk. They cried, ‘It’s Hollande’s fault.’ I heard one of the shooters shout, ‘Allahu Akbar,' » Sylvian told The Associated Press.
He was among dozens of survivors offered counseling and blankets in a municipal building set up as a crisis center.
The carnage inside the music venue ended around midnight local time when French police stormed the building.
As police closed in, three detonated explosive belts, killing themselves, according to Paris police chief Michel Cadot.
Another attacker detonated a suicide bomb on Boulevard Voltaire, near the music hall, the prosecutor’s office said.
“There are lots of dead people. It’s pretty horrific to be honest. »
– Witness to attack on restaurant
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.”
The State Department said it was seeking to establish the whereabouts of 70 U.S. citizens known to be in France, but had not received word that any Americans had been killed in the attacks.
President Barack Obama, speaking to reporters in Washington, decried an « attack on all humanity, » calling the Paris violence an « outrageous attempt to terrorize innocent civilians. »
« 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 said.
A U.S. official briefed by the Justice Department says intelligence officials were not aware of any threats before Friday’s attacks.
The violence raises questions about security for the millions of tourists who come to Paris — and for world events the French capital routinely hosts.
Some 80 heads of state, including possibly Obama, are expected for a critical climate summit in two weeks. In June, France is to host the European soccer championship — with the Stade de France a major venue.
And Paris-based UNESCO is expecting world leaders Monday for a forum about overcoming extremism. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani canceled a trip because of Friday’s attacks. Hollande canceled a planned trip to this weekend’s G-20 summit in Turkey.
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.
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.
Fox News Channel’s Catherine Herridge, James Rosen and The Associated Press contributed to this report