- The Washington Times - Friday, November 13, 2015

French President Francois Hollande declared Saturday that the terror attack that killed more than 100 people with automatic weapons and bombs was an “act of war” as the Islamic State claimed responsibility.

French authorities said at least 129 people were killed and 352 injured in Friday night’s attacks on a concert site, restaurants and a sporting venue in the deadliest violence to hit Paris since World War II.

Mr. Hollande closed the country’s borders and declared a state of emergency while placing his nation at its highest security level.

The attack is “an act of war that was prepared, organized, planned from abroad with internal help,” he said in an address to the nation less than 24 hours after the violence erupted.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility in an online statement that appeared in Arabic and French. French authorities said they too believe ISIS was behind the attacks as they worked to identify possible accomplices to the eight attackers, seven whom died in suicide bombings at the end of their attacks.

One attacker was shot and killed by police. Authorities said at least one of the attackers was carrying a Syrian passport, a piece of evidence certain to point back to ISIS and raise new questions about Western security agencies’ ability to screen the vast wave of Syrian refugees passing through Europe.

SEE ALSO: Police storm Paris rock venue to end siege where hostages were being executed; 2 attackers killed

Late Friday night, Mr. Hollande spoke in front of the the building and vowed a response that would be merciless.

“We will lead the fight. It will be ruthless,” he said.

An estimated 1,500 soldiers were being deployed to the streets of Paris, France’s Interior Ministry said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks.

Islamic State supporters celebrated the attacks on social media, using the hashtag #ParisBurns on Twitter to praise the wave of violence.

In Washington, the FBI said it was monitoring events and had no specific credible threats against the U.S.

SEE ALSO: Eagles of Death Metal, Calif. rock band, booked at Paris venue where 100 hostages held

Mr. Hollande, in an earlier televised address, said the nation would stand firm and united against the attackers. He also said security forces were assaulting one of the sites hit by Friday’s attacks, the concert hall.

By 7 p.m. in Washington, CBS News was reporting that the police assault on the concert hall was over.

A witness who was in the concert hall told CNN that he saw at least 20 bodies on the floor, with three or four gunmen shooting and reloading.

“I’ve seen two terrorists from my point of view with AK-47s entering the concert room and firing randomly into the crowd,” radio reporter Julien Pearce said. “People yelled and screamed.”

He said the terrorists reloaded calmly.

“It lasted for 10 minutes. 10 minutes. 10 horrific minutes where everyone was on the floor covering their heads,” he said. “We heard so many gunshots. And the terrorists were very calm … and they reloaded three to four times their weapons. They didn’t shout anything. They didn’t say anything. They were in masks. They were wearing black clothes.”

President Obama called the attacks on Paris an “outrageous attempt to terrorize innocent civilians” and vowed to do whatever it takes to help bring the perpetrators to justice.

“Once again we’ve seen an outrageous attempt to terrorize innocent civilians,” Mr. Obama said at the White House. “This is an attack not just on Paris, not just on the people of France, but this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values that we share.”

He said the U.S. will do “whatever it takes … to bring these terrorists to justice and to go after any terrorist networks who go after our people.”

The president had spoken to Mr. Hollande only hours earlier about a climate change meeting that he plans to attend in Paris in less than a month.

Also late Friday, two explosions were heard outside the Stade de France stadium north of Paris during a France-Germany friendly football match.

A police official confirmed one explosion in a bar near the stadium. It was not known if there were casualties.

An Associated Press reporter in the stadium Friday night heard two explosions loud enough to penetrate the sounds of cheering fans. Sirens were immediately heard, and a helicopter was circling overhead. Mr. Hollande, who was in the stadium, was evacuated to an emergency meeting.

The attacks come as France has heightened security measures ahead of a major global climate conference that starts in two weeks, out of fear of violent protests and potential terrorist attacks.

The terrorist attacks also come on the same day as U.S. and its coalition partners announced that a drone strike in Syria had likely killed the masked Islamic State militant known as “Jihadi John,” who appeared in several videos depicting the beheadings of Western hostages.

Emilio Macchio, from Ravenna, Italy, was at the Carillon bar near the Paris restaurant that was targeted, having a beer on the sidewalk, when the shooting started. He said he didn’t see any gunmen or victims, but hid behind a corner, then ran away.

“It sounded like fireworks,” he said.

France has been on edge since deadly attacks by Islamic extremists in January on satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery that left 20 dead, including the three attackers.

One of at least two restaurants targeted Friday, Le Carillon, is in the same general neighborhood as the Charlie Hebdo offices, as is the Bataclan, among the best-known venues in eastern Paris, near the trendy Oberkampf area known for a vibrant nightlife. The California-based band Eagles of Death Metal was scheduled to play there Friday night.

The country remains on edge after January attacks at Charlie Hebdo, which had caricatured the Prophet Muhammad, and at a kosher grocery. The attackers at the magazine office claimed links to extremists in Yemen, while the kosher market attacker claimed ties to the Islamic State group.

The country has seen several smaller-scale attacks or attempts since, including an incident on a high-speed train in August in which American travelers thwarted an attempted attack by a heavily armed man.

France’s military is bombing Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq and fighting extremists in Africa, and extremist groups have frequently threatened France in the past.

French authorities are particularly concerned about the threat from hundreds of French Islamic radicals who have travelled to Syria and returned home with skills to stage violence.

• This article is based on wire-service reports.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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