Paris Attacks Were an ‘Act of War’ by ISIS, Hollande Says
PARIS — President François Hollande on Saturday blamed the Islamic State for the terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday, as the death toll rose to 127 victims, with 300 others hospitalized, 80 of them in critical condition. He declared three days of national mourning, and said that military troops would patrol the capital. France remained under a nationwide state of emergency.
“It is an act of war that was committed by a terrorist army, a jihadist army, Daesh, against France,” Mr. Hollande told the nation from the Élysée Palace, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State. “It is an act of war that was prepared, organized and planned from abroad, with complicity from the inside, which the investigation will help establish.”
Mr. Hollande did not specify what intelligence pointed to the militant group’s involvement. On Saturday, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks, but its claim could not be independently verified.
“France, because it was foully, disgracefully and violently attacked, will be unforgiving with the barbarians from Daesh,” Mr. Hollande said on Saturday, adding that France would act within the law but with “all the necessary means, and on all terrains, inside and outside, in coordination with our allies, who are, themselves, targeted by this terrorist threat.”
The attacks, and the possibility that the Islamic State was to blame, promised to further traumatize France and other European countries already fearful of violent jihadists radicalized by the conflicts in Syria and elsewhere. It could also lend weight to the xenophobic arguments of right-wing populists like Marine Le Pen, the leader of the National Front party.
Much remained unknown: the identities of the eight attackers, who are all dead; whether any accomplices remained at large; and how a plot of such sophistication and lethality could have escaped the notice of intelligence agencies, both in France and abroad.
Mr. Hollande actively stepped up French participation in the military air campaign in Syria at the end of September. Just last week, France attacked oil operations under the Islamic State’s control in Syria. On Oct. 8, it conducted a targeted strike against militants in Raqqa, Syria, apparently targeting Salim Benghalem, a Frenchman fighting for the Islamic State.
Paris, stricken by shock and grief, remained in a state of lockdown, with public transportation hobbled and public institutions — schools, museums, libraries, pools, food markets — closed. Charles de Gaulle Airport remained open, but with significant delays because of tighter passport and baggage checks.
The archbishop of Paris, Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, said he would celebrate a Mass at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame on Sunday for the victims, their families and France. “Our country has once again known pain and mourning and must stand up to the barbarism propagated by fanatical groups,” he said.
The authorities continued to search for possible accomplices of the eight attackers known so far, all of whom died on Friday: seven by detonating suicide bombs and one in a shootout with the police at a concert hall, the Bataclan, where gunmen methodically killed at least 80 people.
About 40 others died in apparently coordinated attacks outside the Stade de France, north of Paris, where the French and German national soccer teams were playing an exhibition match, and at four other places in the city.
About 300 people remained in Paris-area hospitals, at least 80 of them in critical condition and 177 in serious condition. The authorities said 53 people had been discharged from hospitals.
At the Hôpital Européen Georges-Pompidou in western Paris, about 40 people were in surgery as of the early afternoon. Julien Ribes, 33, was at the hospital to search for his friend, who was at the concert hall. “I’m in total shock,” he said.
The death toll far surpassed that of a massacre by Islamist extremists at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and related attacks around the French capital in January. It was the deadliest terrorist attack in Europe since the 2004 train bombings in Madrid, which killed 191 people. And it prompted Mr. Hollande to pronounce France’s first state of emergency since 2005, when riots rocked downtrodden urban areas across the country.
Parisians were left struggling to make sense of their new reality. Parents whose children slept through the ordeal were facing the delicate task of trying to explain what had happened, and why so many planned activities had been canceled and public spaces were closed.
On the Champ de Mars, at the base of the Eiffel Tower and along the pedestrian promenade that hugs the Left Bank of the Seine, joggers and cyclists tried to carry on with their Saturday routines.
Pausing from her morning run near the Musée d’Orsay, Marie-Caroline de Richemont, 32, said she was still trying to process the events, but without succumbing to fear. “This is not Iraq or Afghanistan,” she said. “We are not at war here. We need to stay confident and hopeful.”
Bertrand Bourgeois, 42, an accountant, was lost in thought as he cast a fishing line beneath the Invalides bridge.
He normally avoids fishing in Paris, he said, preferring quieter sections of the Seine near his home in Poissy, a northwest suburb. But after the violence, he said he felt drawn to come into the city out of a sense of solidarity.
Although his wife asked him to stay home, “something in me felt like it was important to be here, to say ‘still alive,’ ” Mr. Bourgeois said.
“I feel sickened, angry,” he said. Coming so soon after the attacks in January, he said, “It is starting to be too much.”
On the Champs-Élysées, rows of Christmas market stalls stood shuttered. Several vendors stood idly, awaiting word about whether they would be allowed to open for business, while clutches of heavily armed police officers patrolled the largely empty sidewalks of one of Europe’s most famed avenues.
At Charles de Gaulle Airport, it took two and a half hours for some passengers arriving Saturday morning to reach passport control. Some passengers who had arrived on overnight flights learned what had happened only when they switched on their devices; many read the news in a state of stunned silence.
Pope Francis joined a chorus of world leaders — including the heads of government of Belgium, Burundi, Canada, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Russia, Spain and the United States — who have condemned the attacks.
“There is no justification for such things, neither religious nor human, this is not human,” Francis said in a telephone call to TV2000, the television station of the Italian Episcopal Conference. “It is difficult to understand such things, done by human beings,” he added, clearly moved. Francis said he was close to and was praying for the families of the victims, for France “and for all those who suffer.”
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany gave an emotional address on Saturday pledging solidarity with the French government and people, and calling on Europeans to stand together in defiance of an attack on the liberties the continent represents.
“We, your German friends, we are so close with you,” said Ms. Merkel, dressed in black. “We are crying with you. Together with you, we will fight against those who have carried out such an unfathomable act against you.”
“Those who we mourn were murdered in front of cafes, in restaurants, in a concert hall or on the open street. They wanted to live the life of free people in a city that celebrates life,” she said, her voice breaking. “And they met with murderers who hate this life of freedom.”
Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, meeting on Saturday in Vienna with Secretary of State John Kerry and other top diplomats to discuss the crisis in Syria, said the attacks highlighted the urgency of the talks. “It is more necessary than ever in the current circumstance to coordinate the international fight against terrorism,” he said.
Reporting was contributed by Lilia Blaise, Rachel Donadio, Rosalie Hughes, David Jolly and Alissa J. Rubin from Paris; Palko Karasz from London; Rukmini Callimachi from Sinone, Iraq; and Julie Hirschfeld Davis from Vienna