Paris attacks: 3 teams launched assaults, prosecutor says
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Three teams of assailants launched the co-ordinated deadly attacks in Paris that left 129 people dead another 352 injured, 99 of them in critical condition, Paris prosecutor François Molins said Saturday.
Molins laid out the timeline of the series of Friday night attacks, which included an assault on a central Paris concert hall, where 89 people were killed. Molins said the attackers at the Bataclan concert hall mentioned Syria and Iraq during the siege. Gunmen also targeted Paris cafés, detonated suicide bombs near France's national stadium and killed hostages inside the concert hall.
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Molins said all seven attackers on the three teams wore identical explosive vests. One of the attackers at the Bataclan, a Frenchman, was identified through his fingerprints and had several convictions for minor offences but had never been in prison. But Molins said in 2010 he was identified as someone who had become radicalized yet never involved in terrorist actions.
Earlier, Belgium's justice minister announced a "number of" arrests had been made in Brussels relating to the attacks as police officials in France and other European countries sought to identify the other assailants and any accomplices.
Justice Minister Koen Geens said the arrests came after a rental car with Belgian license plates was seen close to the Bataclan concert hall on Friday night. Geens said police organized several raids in the St. Jans Molenbeek neighbourhood in Brussels on Saturday
The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday that "at least one of the attackers" outside the Stade de France, the country's national stadium, had a ticket to the France vs. Germany soccer game happening inside and tried to get in. Citing a stadium security guard and French police as sources, the newspaper said the attacker "was discovered wearing an explosives vest when he was frisked at the entrance" and blew himself up while trying to back away from security.
French police officials said at least one suicide bomber who targeted the stadium was found to have a Syrian passport. A Greek official said the man had crossed into the European Union through the Greek island of Leros in October.
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"We announce that the passport holder had passed from Leros on Oct. 3, where he was identified based on EU rules.... We do not know if the passport was checked by other countries through which the holder likely passed," the official said.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria claimed responsibility for the attacks and said France would remain at the "top of the list" of its targets and that the attack "is the first of the storm."
An online statement Saturday said eight militants armed with explosive belts and automatic weapons attacked carefully chosen targets in "the capital of prostitution and obscenity" including the soccer stadium, where France was playing Germany, and the concert hall, where "hundreds of apostates had gathered in a profligate prostitution party."
"The stench of death will not leave their noses as long as they remain at the forefront of the Crusaders' campaign, dare to curse our prophet, boast of a war on Islam in France and strike Muslims in the lands of the caliphate with warplanes that were of no use to them in the streets and rotten alleys of Paris," the statement said.
Chronology of attacks
Molins laid out a chronology of the attacks beginning around 9:20 p.m. local time, when two explosions rocked the area near the Stade de France just north of Paris. The bodies of two attackers were discovered there, as well as a detonator and other items that would have made the explosion more lethal, he said.
Minutes later, gunmen armed with Kalashnikovs arrived in a black car and launched attacks on people at Le Carillon bar and Le Petit Cambodge restaurant in central Paris. He said 15 people were killed in those attacks.
Molins said another explosion then occurred near the Stade de France, where an attacker was found wearing an explosive vest. A couple minutes later, gunmen arrived in a black car in Paris's 11th arrondissement on de la Fontaine au Roi Street, killing five people.
At around 9:36 p.m., assailants arrived in a black vehicle at La Belle Equipe bar on Charonne Street in the 11th arrondissement and began firing, killing 19 people sitting on the terrace. At 9:40, on Voltaire Boulevard, at another restaurant, an attacker wearing an explosive device was killed and another person was seriously injured.
At the same time, individuals emerged from a black vehicle parked at the Bataclan concert hall, stormed the venue and began shooting during a concert by the American rock band Eagles of Death Metal. Eighty-nine people were killed at the concert hall. As police closed in, three attackers were killed, with at least two detonating their explosive belts.
"It was gruesome," said American journalist and documentary maker Shane McMillan, who was staying one door over from the concert hall. He told CBC News the courtyard of the building where he stayed along with others became a spontaneous triage place where the injured were brought.
Video shot from an apartment balcony and posted on French newspaper Le Monde's website Saturday captured some of the horror as dozens of people fled from gunfire outside the Bataclan down a passageway to a side street.
At least one person lies writhing on the ground as scores more stream past, some of them bloodied or limping. The camera pans down the street to reveal more fleeing people dragging two bodies along the ground. Two other people can be seen hanging by their hands from upper-floor balcony railings in an apparent desperate bid to stay out of the line of fire.
Sylvain, a tall, sturdy 38-year-old concert-goer, collapsed in tears as he recounted the attack, the chaos and his escape during a lull in gunfire.
"I was watching the concert in the pit, in the midst of the mass of the audience. 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,' " Sylvain told The Associated Press, asking that only his first name be used.
French President François Hollande called the attacks an "act of war" and promised to be ruthless in striking out at ISIS.
Speaking to the country Saturday, Hollande said the attacks were "committed by a terrorist army, the Islamic State group, a jihadist army, against France, against the values that we defend everywhere in the world, against what we are: A free country that means something to the whole planet."
Hollande said France "will be merciless toward the barbarians of the Islamic State group." France "will act by all means anywhere, inside or outside the country." France has been bombing ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq as part of the U.S.-led coalition, and has troops fighting extremists in Africa.
Hollande declared a state of emergency — the first such move in a decade — and ordered 1,500 additional troops deployed. Many of Paris's top tourist attractions closed Saturday, including the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum and the Disneyland theme park east of the capital.
The attacks raise concerns about international events that France is hosting, such as a UNESCO forum in Paris on Monday with world leaders, and major climate talks in Paris in two weeks.
With files from the Associated Press, Reuters