A state of emergency has been declared across France after attacks in Paris killed at least 128 people, in what President Francois Hollande said was an “act of war” organised by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.
Four gunmen killed at least 80 young people attending a rock concert at the Bataclan music hall on Friday evening, city hall officials said. Heavily armed policemen eventually launched an assault on the building.
The gunmen detonated explosive belts and dozens of shocked survivors were rescued. The attackers were killed at the site and a manhunt is under way as a number of armed men are believed to be at large.
About 40 more people were killed in five other attacks in the Paris region, officials said, including an apparent triple suicide bombing outside the national stadium, Stade de France.
Hollande and the German foreign minister were watching a friendly football match between France and Germany there when the attacks occurred.
The coordinated assault came as France, a member of the US-led coalition waging air strikes against ISIL fighters in Syria and Iraq, was on high alert for attacks.
The ISIL group released an undated video on Saturday threatening to attack France if bombings of its fighters in the Middle East continued.
The group’s foreign media arm, Al-Hayat Media Centre, made the threat through a man who called on French Muslims to carry out attacks.
“As long as you keep bombing you will not live in peace. You will even fear travelling to the market,” said the bearded Arabic-speaking man, flanked by others.
Paris Public Prosecutor Francois Molins said the death toll was at least 128 and that about 200 people were injured, 90 of them seriously.
His spokeswoman said eight assailants had also died, seven of whom had blown themselves up with explosive belts at various locations, while one had been shot dead by police.
As France awakened on Saturday, security was tight across the capital, where about 1,500 soldiers were deployed, leave was cancelled for police personnel and hospitals recalled staff to cope with the casualties.
Three restaurants and a shopping centre were also targeted in shooting attacks.
Reports also said that Paris has cancelled all public transportation services including the Metro on Saturday, as French newspapers decried a “War in the heart of Paris” with black mastheads.
The deadliest attack was on the Bataclan, a popular concert venue where the California rock group Eagles of Death Metal was performing.
The concert hall is just a few hundred metres from the former offices of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, target of a deadly attack by gunmen in January.
Some witnesses in the hall said they heard the gunmen shout Islamic chants and slogans condemning France’s role in Syria.
“It was carnage in that concert hall,” freelance journalist John Laurenson told Al Jazeera from Paris, adding that the death toll was higher than initially announced.
Julien Pearce, a journalist from Europe 1 radio, was inside the concert hall when the shooting began.
In an eye witness report posted on the station’s website, Pearce said several very young individuals, who were not wearing masks, entered the hall during the concert, armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles and started “blindly shooting at the crowd”.
“There were bodies everywhere,” he said.
The gunmen shot their victims in the back, finishing some off at point-blank range before reloading their guns and firing again, Pearce said, after escaping into the street by a stage door, carrying a wounded girl on his shoulder.