LIVE BLOG: Deadly attacks strike heart of France

#ParisAttacks

Middle East Eye brings you live updates from the aftermath of Friday's deadly attacks in Paris, the bloodiest to hit Europe in over a decade

MEE staff's picture
Last update: 
December 9 Dec 2017 03:56 UTC
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Summary of events so far:

- French police say 129 people were killed in two hours of highly co-ordinated attacks on Friday night

- Supporters of Islamic State have circulated a statement claiming responsibility for the attacks, warning of further violence to come

- President Hollande has vowed a "merciless response," with the Foreign Minister pledging to continue France's international action against Islamic State

- Security across Europe has been tightened, with an airport in the UK evacuated amid a bomb scare

Belgium's home affairs minister says IS communicates by using a Playstation 4

Belgium’s Home Affairs minister Jam Jambon reportedly warned that the Islamic State (IS) group uses the Playstation 4 game console to communicate with each other.

“PlayStation 4 is even more difficult to keep track of than WhatsApp,” he said.

Back in June, police arrested a 14-year-old Austrian for downloading bomb plans onto his Playstation 4.

Paris 'would've been different' if French armed: Trump

Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump on Saturday said the terror strikes in Paris that killed at least 129 "would have been different" if civilians had been armed.

"When you look at Paris, toughest gun laws in the world, nobody had guns but the bad guys," he said on the 2016 campaign trail in Texas, after a moment of silence for the dead in Friday's attacks on the French capital.

Trump, 69, a billionaire real estate developer who admits he sometimes carries a gun to protect himself, added: "Nobody had guns. And they were just shooting them one by one, and then they broke in and had a big shootout and ultimately killed the terrorists.

"And I will tell you what - you can say what you want, if they had guns, if our people had guns, if they were allowed to carry, it would have been a much, much different situation."

One of the attackers allegedly had a ticket to the football match

According to the US newspaper the Wall Street Journal, the first suicide bomber had a ticket to the football match and attempted to enter the stadium, quoting a Stade de France security guard.

The guard - who wished only to be identified by his first name, Zouheir – told the paper that guards discovered the attacker wearing an explosives vest while he was frisked at the stadium’s entrance around 15 minutes after the match began.

After the guards found out about his vest, the attacker detonated his vest, which was loaded with explosives, said Paris prosecutor François Molins. The frisking team at the gate briefed Zouheir, who was on duty to guard the tunnel used by players.

Musicians express shock over Paris attacks

The assault on one of the leading concert halls in Paris has sent shockwaves through the music world, with top-selling artists including U2 and Foo Fighters calling off shows.

"Shocked, sad and angry. We are all Parisian today," tweeted Peter Gabriel, one of many prominent musicians who took to social media after Friday's night coordinated attacks in the French capital.

More than 80 people were killed inside the Bataclan concert hall as gunmen opened fire during a performance by the California rock band Eagles of Death Metal, an attack for which the Islamic State group took responsibility.

France's Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin laid a bouquet of flowers Saturday in front of the Bataclan, a historic venue which is striking for its 19th-century chinoiserie architecture.

A short while earlier, an anonymous man brought a mobile keyboard near the entrance and played songs including John Lennon's pacifist anthem "Imagine" under the eye of a pack of photographers.

US student killed in Paris attacks

A US student from California was killed in the Paris attacks, her university said Saturday.

It was the first word of an American being among the victims of the Friday night massacre.

The State Department said separately that some Americans were wounded in the deadly attacks but it did not specify how many.

The student killed in the string of shootings and explosions was identified as Nohemi Gonzalez, a third-year design student at California State University, Long Beach.

She was in Paris doing a semester abroad, studying at Strate College of Design, the university said. The State Department said it could not immediately confirm the death.

Syrian activists denounce Paris attacks

Dozens of Syrian rebel groups on Saturday strongly denounced the Islamic State jihadist group's attacks on Paris as "against human values" in a joint online statement.

And Syrian activists, refugees, and civilians in the war-torn country expressed their solidarity with France in posts on social media.

Forty-nine armed factions in Syria, including the powerful Jaish al-Islam rebel groups, condemned "in the strongest terms" the Islamic State (IS) group's coordinated assault in Paris that killed at least 129 people.

"We learned today, with great shock and condemnation, about the terrorist attacks against civilians in the city of Paris," the joint statement said.

It called IS's actions "criminal attacks that are against (Islamic) laws and human values".

Most rebel groups in Syria fiercely oppose both the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and IS, which has declared a self-styled "caliphate" in parts of Syria and Iraq.

"This terrorism does not differ from the terrorism that the Syrian people have suffered from every day for the past five years," the groups said. 

They pledged to continue to "fight terrorism" and urged the international community to address the root cause of extremism in Syria.

"The real victim of the continuation of the Assad regime and its terrorist organisations is the whole world, not just the Syrian people," the statement said.

Meanwhile, Syrians around the world expressed their solidarity with the people of Paris online.

Activists from the northwest province of Idlib and from the IS-held city of Raqa overlaid their profile pictures on social media accounts with the French flag.

Residents of Douma, a rebel-held town east of Damascus frequently bombarded by Syria's regime, wrote an open letter to the French people.

"First, and before everything, we express our warm condolences to the French families who lost loved ones," the letter said.

"We condemn in the strongest of terms the targeting of civilians there and anywhere around the world," the residents wrote.

"We extend our hands to all the people that love peace and freedom, most of all the French people."

More than 250,000 people have been killed in the Syria conflict since March 2011. 

Two Algerians among those killed in Paris

Two Algerians were among at least 129 people killed in the gun and bomb attacks in Paris claimed by the Islamic State group, the official APS news agency said Saturday.

The agency cited diplomatic sources as saying they were a woman aged 40 and a 29-year-old man, but did not give their names.

Algeria, which has the largest foreign community in France, has set up a crisis centre at the foreign ministry and at its Paris embassy to provide assistance to any families of Algerian victims of the attacks.

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika on Saturday branded the Paris attacks as a "crime against humanity" and urged international solidarity in the face of extremism.

Pro-Sisi journalists criticised for gloating over Paris terror attacks

Several TV presenters and journalists known to be supporters of Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, have been criticised for expressing apparent “delight” over the Paris attacks, according to a report in Middle East Monitor.

“We will send a team to inspect restaurants in Paris,” tweeted Lamis Al-Hadidi, “that [security] would be a source of concern.”

Kuwaiti writer Fajr Al-Saeed, who is known to be a staunch supporter of Al-Sisi, took the opportunity to be even more sarcastic about the events in Paris. She posted 14 tweets while commenting on the shootings and bombings. “Flights should be grounded and all tourists should leave Paris. It would not be wrong to declare Paris a disaster area. I hope that Ban Ki-moon will express concern. Why only at Sharm Al-Sheikh?” Responding to the Paris police calling on citizens not to leave their homes unless absolutely necessary she said, “Frankly, I am delighted.”

Details of attacks from press conference with French public prosecutor François Molins

First explosion took place at the Stade de France at 21:20.

At 21:25 in Paris, people sat at the tables in Le Carillon bar and at the Le Petit Cambodge restaurant were fired on by a kalashnikov, from a car which was a Seat Leon. Fifteen people died on the scene.

At 21:30 a second explosion took place at Gate H of the Stade de France. The body of a suicide bomber was discovered on the scene, similar to the one that had been found in front of Gate D.

At 21:32 at the corner of the Rue du Faubourg-du-Temple and the rue de la Fontaine-au-Roi, there was another shooting incident in front of the bar “A la Bonne Biere”, which resulted in 5 deaths and 8 injured in intense care. Witnesses identified the car as a black Seat.

At 21:36, at 92 rue de Charonne, fresh outbursts of gunfire caused the death of 19 people, by gunmen who had arrived on board a black Seat car.

Around 21:40 at 2253 boulevard Voltaire, at the Comptoir Voltaire restaurant, a suicide bomber exploded his device. One person was seriously wounded and others lightly wounded.

At 21:40 in Paris a black Polo car is parked in front of the Bataclan. Three people armed with battlefield weapons broke into the hall, and sprayed the audience with gunfire, and took hostage people who had taken refuge in the orchestra pit. The terrorists spoke of Syria and Iraq.

All three terrorists were killed when the assault ( by police) took place, one by a bullet fired by the assault team, while the other two died by activating their explosive belts. As I speak to you, there are 89 dead and three seriously wounded [at the Bataclan].

At 21:53 at Saint-Denis , 400 metres from the stadium, rue de la Cocker, there is a third explosion. There the body of a suicide bomber was found.

One can say, at this stage in the investigation, that very likely there were three teams of terrorists, who were coordinated with each other, who are the cause of these atrocities. The investigation will seek to establish their accomplices, their organisers, their movements and how this operation was financed.

I can say , at this stage, that the terrorist in charge of the taking of hostages at the Bataclan has been formally identified. He is an individual born on 21 November 1985 at Courcouronnes, known by the courts for common law offences (Eight sentences between 2004 and 2010) who had never been in prison but was the object of an S Notice in 2010 for radicalisation . He has never been implicated  in or associated with  terrorists.

Next to the body of the suicide bomber of 21:20,a Syrian passport was found of an individual born in September 1990. He is not known by the French intelligence service.

The seven terrorists used assault rifles , 7.62 caliber weapons, and identical explosives. On each there was an explosive belt with TATP explosive, and a trigger using the same buttons and batteries.

Video footage has identified a black Seat and a black Polo registered in Belgian. This latter car was hired by a Frenchman living in Belgium. He was found this morning at the Belgium frontier in another car in which there was two other people who are resident in the region of Brussels.

French Public Prosecutor Francois Molins speaking to the press in Paris

French Public Prosecutor Francois Molins speaking to the press in Paris (AFP)

Foreign victims of Paris bloodbath

Several foreigners have been identified as victims of Friday's deadly terrorist attacks in Paris, which left at least 129 dead and 300 injured:

BELGIUM: At least two victims, according to the Belgian foreign ministry.

ROMANIA: Two Romanian nationals, according to the foreign ministry in Bucharest.

TUNISIA: Two young Tunisians, sisters who lived in the centre-eastern French region of Creusot and who were celebrating in Paris a friend's birthday, according to the Tunisian foreign ministry.

BRITAIN: One Briton killed, a "handful" feared dead: government source

PORTUGAL: A 63-year-old Portuguese national, who lived in Paris and who worked in public transport, died near to the Stade de France sports stadium, according to the Portuguese authorities.

SWEDEN: Two Swedish citizens may be among the victims of the attacks, the foreign ministry says.

SPAIN: 29-year-old Alberto González Garrido, according to the Spanish authorities, was attending a  concert at the Bataclan theatre when it was attacked.

'Peace for Paris' symbol goes viral

A "Peace for Paris" symbol, combining the city's beloved Eiffel Tower with the peace sign of the Sixties, has gone viral following the Paris terror attacks.

The designer is a 32-year-old French graphic artist, Jean Jullien, who lives in London.

Listening to the radio, he became horrified by the violence unfolding in his nation's capital and reached for his sketchpad.

"My first reaction was to draw something and share it," he told AFP. "It was spontaneous. I wanted to do something that could be useful for people."

"Given the scale of the violence, the peace-and-love symbol was essential. It was then quite an easy thing to combine it with the Eiffel Tower, the symbol of Paris," he added. "The two symbols fit together."

The peace-and-love motif was adopted by Britain's Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) in the 1950s, before being used by anti-war and "counter-culture" militants in the 1960s.

Jullien posted the combined symbol on his website and then tweeted it. Within hours, it was shared more 45,000 times and retweeted 76,000 times, including by the British underground artist Banksy.



'Buried under' - Bataclan survivor's story

Theresa Cede, who was in the audience at the Bataclan, recounted the horror of Friday's attack. She told BBC Radio 5live: "There were grenades, or one grenade at least that I know of. Body parts flying around, people shouting, screaming.

"But then, you know, at the moment, like, everybody who could would become as quiet as possible, just not to move. And it lasted a lifetime or an eternity. It was like, probably an hour. 

"I got more or less buried under a man who was shot in the head next to me. And so I was underneath him. And from there nobody moved. 

"Then we heard terrorists who were shouting, Syria was in it. And then... mostly it was: "Stay down, don't move, we'll shoot you.' 

"But then they shot anyway. I was thinking to myself, is it going to be me next? That's what went through my head.”

99 people in 'absolutely critical condition'

The death toll from Friday's string of attacks rose to 129 on Saturday.

Paris's prosecutor general said 352 people are injured, with 99 of them in "absolutely critical condition".

"The investigation is only just starting."

The prosecutor warned that the death toll could rise with the high number of grave injuries.

Anti-Islam protesters expelled from memorial service in Lille

There were heated scenes in the northern French city of Lille on Saturday afternoon when anti-Islam demonstrators tried to join a memorial service for those killed in Paris last night.

The small group tried to attend a vigil at Place de la Republique, a central square in the town, chanting loudly, setting off flares and carrying a banner that read "Expel Islamists".

Footage from the scene shows the rest of the crowd turning towards the group and walking slowly towards them, whistling and booing. 

The crowd then takes up a chant of "Dehors les fachos" or "Fascists out" and forces the group out of the square.



 

Arrests in Belgium in connection with Paris attacks

Belgian police say they have made "a number" of arrests on Saturday evening in connection with the attacks in Paris last night. 

Police in the capital Brussels raided the suburb of Molenbeek roughly an hour ago.

Suzanne Lynch, a correspondent for the Irish Times who is on the scene, reports that there is still a heavy police presence after the conclusion of the raid, with sniffer dogs and buildings screened off.

The raid was launched after it was discovered that a car with Belgian numberplates was involved in the Paris attacks.

Belgian media reported that three of the Paris attackers came from the same suburb of Molenbeek.



Police use sniffer dogs during a raid in Molenbeek (Twitter / @suzannelynch1)

Heavily armed police searched three properties in Molenbeek, local news site Flanders News reported. 

The bomb disposal unit was on the scene.

Woman may have been among Bataclan attackers

A couple who survived last night's attack at a rock gig in Paris say they saw two men and one woman enter the venue before shooting randomly into the crowd.

Upwards of 90 people are thought to have died during the attack at the Bataclan music venue.

Until now all the eight attackers were assumed to be men - now, though, the testimony of a couple who spoke to French radio station Europe1 suggests that one of the perpetrators may have been a woman.



Parisians comfort each other outside the Bataclan music venue (AFP)

Syrian passport found with body was registered in Greece last month

The Syrian passport found near the body of one of last night's attackers was registered in Greece last month, a Greek minister has just told Associated Press.

According to the minister, the passport was registered to a Syrian refugee on the island of Leros early in October.

The same passport was found beside the body of one of the men who launched last night's attacks.

It remains unclear whether the attacker was the same person who registered the passport in October.

Hamas, Islamic Jihad condemn Paris attacks

Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders have spoken out to condemn yesterday's attacks in Paris.

Bassem Naim, who heads the Council of International Relations for Hamas, told AFP on Saturday afternoon that the group condemns "the acts of aggression and barbarity" that took place in Paris on Friday night.

Islamic Jihad, also speaking to the French agency, decried "a crime against innocents".

Rock band cancels European tour over Paris violence

Foo Fighters, the world-famous rock band that had been due to play dates in Paris later this month, have announced that they are cancelling the rest of their European tour.

In a statement posted on their Facebook page the band said they had been forced to cancel the remainder of the tour by "this senseless violence, the closing of borders, and international mourning".

"This is crazy and it sucks. Our thoughts are with everyone who was hurt or who lost a loved one."



Foo Fighters lead singer Dave Grohl (AFP)

The worst of Friday's carnage occurred during a concert by US rock band Eagles of Death Metal at the Bataclan music venue in Paris.

None of the band members are understood to have been hurt, but a British man working selling merchandise for the group is feared dead.

French passenger plane grounded after 'threatening' Tweet

An Air France has been grounded at Amsterdam Airport in the Netherlands after security services reported a threatening Tweet.

Flight AF1741 was scheduled to take off from Amsterdam for Paris on Saturday afternoon.

However, shortly before takeoff all passengers were evacuated and the plane was searched after a threat was posted on Twitter.

The area around the plane was closed during the search and passengers on the observation deck inside the airport were asked to leave. 

Poland to refuse refugee quotas in wake of Paris attacks

Poland will refuse to take in refugees allocated to it under a European Union programme meant to share responsibility among the body's 28 member states in the midst of this year's border crisis.

The country's incoming European affairs minister Konrad Szymanski, elected last month when his right-wing Law and Justice Party won over a third of the vote, wrote an article on Saturday about the "tragic" events in Paris last night.

"The European Council's decisions on the relocation of refugees and immigrants to all EU countries, which we criticised, are part of European law," Szymanski wrote.

"After the tragic events of Paris we do not see the political possibility of respecting them."

Poland had previously agreed to take in 4,500 refugees under the plan. 

A French far-right leader on Saturday also used referenced a need to "recapture control of [France's] borders" in the aftermath of the attacks.

Marine Le Pen, who heads the National Front and yesterday topped a presidential poll ahead of elections in 2017, spoke on French television, saying:

"France must determine who its friends are and who its enemies are. France's enemies are those who maintain links with Islamism. 

"Once and for all, France must recapture control of its borders."



Le Pen is planning to stand for election in 2017 (AFP)

Netanyahu orders security agencies to assist France

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has given orders to his security apparatus to give France "all possible assistance" as it begins to investigate how at least eight attackers managed to carry out highly co-ordinated attacks in the capital last night, Le Monde reports.

As early investigations begin, with medical experts saying they believe the suicide bomber were aged between just 15 and 18, chaos still reigns in Paris as families continue to search for missing loved ones.

A telephone specially set up to help those searching for relatives is reportedly inundated with calls. Many bodies of those who died in the Bataclan music venue were not removed until Saturday because the focus was on evacuating the injured to hospitals and makeshift medical centres.

Many of the victims had their belongings, including identifying documents and cards, in the venue's cloakroom when the violence broke out, reports French daily Liberation, making identifying the dead a more complex and lengthy process.

 

Suicide bombers were between 15 and 18: experts

French experts have estimated that the suicide bombers who attacked Paris last night were between 15 and 18 years of age.

The Medico-Legal Institute of Paris spoke to French radio station Europe1 just now, saying they believe the attackers were not older than 18.

Security alert in London airport

The North terminal of Gatwick airport near London was evacuated on Saturday morning when a man was apprehended reportedly carrying a bag full of grenades.

The bomb squad arrived to deal with the suspected explosive devices.

In the south terminal of the airport, people were told to stay inside and have still not been allowed to leave.

Those who were evacuated from the north terminal earlier are outside waiting to be let back in.

Commenters on the ground say the atmosphere is calm.

Syrian passport found with body of one attacker

A Syrian passport was found with the body of one of last night's attackers, the Associated Press is reporting. 

It remains unclear exactly how many attackers there were, although it is thought there were eight. In a statement otherwise fairly vague on details of the attack, Islamic State claimed eight "soldiers of the Caliphate" had perpetrated it.

News that one of the attackers may have been Syrian will raise fears among many about the potential repercussions on the hundreds of thousands of Syrians currently attempting to travel to and within Europe to claim asylum.

Concerns were raised last night when a fire broke out at the refugee camp in Calais, where thousands of people are living in squalid conditions as they attempt to reach the UK.

Many reported that the fire was the result of a reprisal arson attack in the wake of the Paris killings, but it later transpired that a candle people were using to keep warm had caught on one of the tents in high winds. 



The fire spread quickly due to heavy winds last night (Facebook)



The aftermath of Friday night's fire (Facebook)

Parisians search for missing loved ones

As politicians scrambled to condemn the attacks on Saturday morning and suggest a course of action that could prevent further bloodshed, hundreds of people were still frantically searching for lost loved ones missing since the attacks.

A Twitter account has been set up with the handle "Searching for people" - it publishes photos and details of people who have not been seen or heard from since the attacks began on Friday evening.

So far it has published details of almost 30 people.

Most are young, in their teens and twenties, and many are known to have attended a rock concert at the Bataclan music venue, which last night became the scene of by far the bloodiest attack of the night.