Paris Terrorist Attacks: What We Know So Far
Yesterday, the world united around Paris as the City of Lights came under siege by a ruthless and horrific terrorist attack. Bombs, hostages, and gunfire brought the city—and the world—to a standstill as we tried to make sense of this tragedy. News outlets are sifting through the details of the worst terrorist attack in France since World War II and the second attack this year after January’s terrorist onslaught on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.
We know that six coordinated attacks occurred across the Paris yesterday that were carried out by eight militants wearing suicide vests. We know that at least 129 people have reportedly been killed, 180 are injured, and 99 are in critical condition. There has not been a clear timeline of the events yet.
Explosions Outside of the Stade de France
An excited crowd of 80,000 football fans stood alongside President Francois Hollande and the German foreign minister, as France played against Germany in an international football friendly at the Stade de France. While players kicked the ball around the field and crowds cheered, three enormous cracks were heard outside of the stadium and caught on video within the first half of the game—the first and second happening in the 16th and 19th minute of the game respectively. With each bang, the crowds and players couldn’t help but turn to their phones to scan the news for some sense of what was happening outside.
Low-flying helicopters and police sirens formed the background noise within the stadium while Hollande was evacuated to safety to assess the situation. After the game, the stadium was put on lockdown and fans took to the field until 11:30PM, when security allowed the crowds to head home. The situation at the stadium was particularly chilling for the German football team because earlier in the day, they had been evacuated from their hotel because of a bomb scare. The team spent the night in the stadium following the attacks rather than returning to their hotel.
The bombings are believed to have happened in the immediate vicinity of the stadium, and were carried out by grenades and a suicide bomber wearing an explosives belt. One of the explosions occurred at the McDonalds restaurant on the outskirts of the stadium. The death toll currently stands at three suicide bombers and no civilians.
Shootings reported on Rue Bichat
Five miles away from the situation at the Stade de France, police rushed toward an ongoing situation at the popular Le Carillon bar and Le Petite Cambodge restaurant in the 10th district where shots had been reported on Rue Bichat. The gunfire was described by eyewitnesses on the scene as happening very quickly, and it appears to have originated from two men who pulled up in a vehicle next to the restaurants around 9:20PM armed with Kalashnikov rifles and AK-47s. One witness, Patrick Sawyer, described the gunmen as spraying their bullets indiscriminately into the crowded restaurants and then fleeing within ten seconds.
Another witness who has spoken out about the attacks was Jose Viana, 47, who lives in a ground floor apartment next to Le Carillon. He and his wife had been watching the football match on TV when they heard quick bursts of gunfire outside. After rushing to the window, they described the scene as follows:
“I didn’t see them, even though I looked out as soon as the shooting started. It was all over incredibly quickly. What I saw was awful. Bodies everywhere, at least 10 people clearly dead, others terribly injured.”
It has also been reported that the Le Carillon bar is a popular spot for doctors and hospital staff at the nearby Lariboisière Hospital, and that a lot of doctors were feared to be injured in the attacks because of this proximity. In total, the BBC has estimated that twelve people died in these attacks.
More shootings are reported at restaurants around Paris.
While much has been discussed about the shootings at Le Carillon and Le Petit Cambodge, less is known about the attacks that occurred at other restaurants swept up in the wave of terror. There are confirmed reports of casualties at both the La Casa Nostra pizzeria and La Belle Equipe bar in the 11th district. These two sites were within the same vicinity as the previous attacks and, like those, these began when a car pulled up to La Casa Nostra and opened fire on diners sitting out on the terrace before driving away “very slowly, very calmly.” We were unable to find an official confirmation, but it appears that the gunmen were the same ones who had unleashed carnage on Rue Bichat. A witness at the pizzeria, Mathieu, told the The Telegraph about the scene:
“There were at least five dead around me, others in the road, there was blood everywhere. I was very lucky.”
From there, the drivers drove about a mile to the southeast and launched another attack on La Belle Equipe on the Rue de Charonne. The gunfire here once again focused on the crowds sitting outside on the terrace and reportedly lasted three to four minutes, according to one witness. At the time of the shooting, the bar was also reportedly at maximum capacity.
Both attacks left a estimated total of 24 casualties, with five occuring at La Casa Nostra and nineteen happening at La Belle Equipe. The suspects in the shooting fled from La Belle Equipe and continued to travel through the streets. We were unable to find a clear explanation of where they went after leaving this bar but it has been reported that all terrorist suspects in the attack have died.
A hostage situation turns to a massacre at the Bataclan theatre.
Friday night crowds were packed to the brim inside Paris’s famous Bataclan theatre, a pagoda-like space painted in vivid yellows, reds and citruses, in the heart of the popular Boulevard Voltaire. Last night, it was hosting American rock band Eagles of Death Metal, but it would soon become the site of a horrific and bloody scene of panic and destruction. Midway into the show at around 9:40PM, gunmen reportedly rushed the concert hall and began to calmly fire into the packed crowds, immediately killing dozens. Europe 1 journalist Julien Pierce was on the scene, and reported this information:
“Several armed men came into the concert. Two or three men, not wearing masks, came in with what looked like Kalashnikovs and fired blindly on the crowd. It lasted between 10 and 15 minutes. It was extremely violent and there was panic. The attackers had enough time to reload at least three times. They were very young.”
By the time police had arrived, an ongoing hostage situation had developed for those who had not been killed or had not escaped from exits around the venue. Four explosions were heard when the police stormed the building during their thirty minute operation, which is now being attributed to three suicide bombers detonating their explosives belts—a fourth bomber was reportedly killed in the gunfight between the terrorists and police. By the time the police had cleared the building, the death toll from the Bataclan was at 80.
Assessing the aftermath.
As time dragged forward and the attacks ended, world leaders and religious leaders within Muslim communities began to offer condolences, while France declared a state of emergency and began to seal off its borders. The Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attacks this morning, with a claim that the wave of terror was retaliation against France for engaging in a US-led coalition that has targeted Islamic State positions in Iraq and Syria since last fall.
In response to the message from ISIS, President Hollande released a message stating that the attacks were an “act of war.”and that they were attacks “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.”
As the world mourns, we remember the victims of the heinous attacks in Paris, but also mourn the 41 victims of suicide bombings in Beirut on Thursday. As we move forward from this, it is imperative to remember that violence and terrorism transcend religion. In the face of overwhelming tragedy, we must stand united, and not allow this violence to breed more violence. As the world continues to grieve, we leave you with a statement from President Obama:
“Once again, we’ve seen an outrageous attempt to terrorize innocent civilians. This is an attack not just on Paris, it’s an attack not just on the people of France, but this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values that we share.”
Images via CNN, AFP, Philippe Wojazer, Christian Hartmann, Kin Cheung, and Christopher Furlong.