Paris Death Toll Rises As Officials Piece Together Information

PARIS( AP) — Paris reeled on Saturday as the death toll from Friday’s massive, coordinated terror attacks continued to rise. One-hundred and twenty-nine people were confirmed dead and 352 injured — 99 critically — after suicide bombings near France’s national stadium and a hostage-taking carnage inside a concert hall.

At least one American, 23 -year-old student Nohemi Gonzalez, was killed. She was in Paris on exchange experiences program from the California State University, Long Beach.

Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said three squads of assailantsappear to have worked in coordination with each other, with seven attackers wearing suicide vests and carrying Kalashnikov rifles. He said that the attackers at the Bataclan, the concert hall where 89 people were killed and hundreds taken hostage, mentioned Syria and Iraq during the course of its siege.

One of the suicide bombers involved in the attacks has been identified as Ismael Omar Mostefai by a member of the French Parliament, CNN reported.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks, which were the deadliest in France since World War II, issuing an online statement in Arabic and French circulated by the group’s advocates. It was not immediately possible to corroborate the authenticity of the admission, which the group’s logo and resembled previous verified statements by the working group. French President Francois Hollande vowed to assault the Islamic State without mercy.

Information about the attackers and possible accomplices percolated in on Saturday.

Police identified one of the bombers as a young Frenchman who had been flagged by authorities for his ties to Islamic extremism.

Reuters reported that a Syrian passport was find near the bodies of one of the bombers and that the holder of the passport passed through Greece in October.

A spokesman for Belgium’s Justice Minister said on Saturday that authorities had stimulated several arrests in the capital, Brussels, in matters relating to the two attacks. Koen Geens explained that one of the cars used during Friday’s assaults had Belgian license plates and that receipts found inside the car were published in a Brussels neighborhood.

A 51 -year-old man arrested in Germany last week with weapons in his vehicle may also be linked to the attacks, the governor of Bavaria said Saturday.

The prosecutor’s office spokeswoman, Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre, said authorities couldn’t rule in the possibility that other militants involved in the attack remained at large.

French President Francois Hollande vowed to assault the Islamic State without mercy.

Hollande, who proclaimed three days of national mourn and created the nation’s security to its highest level, called the carnage “an act of war that was prepared, organized, planned from abroad with internal help.” He said that France — which is already bombing IS targets in Syria and Iraq as part of the U.S.-led coalition and has troops fighting militants in Africa — “will be merciless toward the barbarians of[ the] Islamic State group.”

World leaders united in compassion and outrage, New York police increased security measures and people worldwide reached out to friends and loved ones in France as Parisians lined up in droves to donate blood.

The White House said there was no “specific or credible threat” to the U.S. after the attacks.

The violence raised questions about security for the millions of tourists who come to Paris and for world events routinely hosted in the normally luminous capital, where troops were deployed to support police trying to restore order.

One of Europe’s most heavily visited tourist attractions, the Disneyland Paris theme park east of the city, announced it would not open for business Saturday, a rarity. It billed the move as a matter of compassion , not security, and said in a statement it would remain closed “in light of the recent tragic events in France and in support of our community and the victims of such horrendous attacks.”

Reflecting dreads in other European capitals of the risk of coordinated or copycat assaults, the British government scheduled a session of its own emergency COBRA intelligence committee oversee by Prime Minister David Cameron. Italy said it, too, was creating security levels at borders and major public places.

Friday night’s militants launched at the least six handgun and suicide bombing attack in rapid succession on apparently indiscriminate civilian targets.

Three suicide bombs targeted spots around the national stadium, the Stade de France, where Hollande was watching an exhibition soccer match. Fan inside the stadium recoiled at the sound of detonations but the match continued amid rising spectator fears.

The Wall Street Journal reported that one of the suicide bombers had tickets to the match, but was turned away when his explosives were discovered, at which point he blew himself up.

Around the same time, fusillades of bullets shattered the clink of wine glass in a trendy Paris neighborhood as gunmen targeted a string of cafes, which were crowded on an remarkably balmy November night. At least 37 people were killed, according to Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins.

The attackers next stormed the Bataclan concert hall, which was hosting the American boulder band Eagles of Death Metal. They opened fire on the panicked audience and took members hostage. As police closed in, three detonated explosive belts, killing themselves, according to Paris police chief Michel Cadot.

Another attacker detonated a suicide bomb on Boulevard Voltaire, near the music hall, the prosecutor’s office said.

The Bataclan was the scene of the worst carnage.

Graphic and disturbing video shot from an apartment balcony and posted on Le Monde’s website Saturday captured some of that horror as dozens of people fled from gunfire outside the Bataclan down a passageway to a side street.

In the video, at the least person or persons lies writhing on the ground as ratings more creek past, some of them bloodied or limping. The camera pans down the street to uncover more fleeing people dragging two bodies along the ground. A woman and two others can be seen clinging to upper-floor balcony railings in an apparent desperate bid to stay out of the line of fire.

Le Monde said its reporter who filmed the scene from his apartment balcony, Daniel Psenney, was shot in the arm where reference is stopped filming and went downstairs to assistance someone who had collapsed in the alley.

Sylvain, a tall, sturdy 38 -year-old concertgoer, collapsed in tears as he recounted the two attacks, the chaos and his escape during a pause in gunfire.

“I was watching the concert in the cavity, in the midst of the mass of the audience. First I heard detonations, 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 find at the least two shooters, but I heard others talk. They exclaimed, ‘It’s Hollande’s fault.’ I heard one of the shooters shout, ‘Allahu Akbar, ‘” Sylvain told The Associated Press. He spoke on the condition that his full name not be used because of concerns for his safety.

He was among dozens of survivors offered advise and blankets in a municipal building put up as a crisis center.

Jihadis on Twitter instantly praised the attackers and blamed France’s military operations against Islamic State extremists.

Hollande proclaimed a state of emergency and announced renewed border checks along frontiers that are normally open under Europe’s free travelling zone.

In a televised Friday night address he appealed to citizens to maintain “a ascertained France, a united France, a France that joins together and a France that will not allow itself to be staggered, even if today there is infinite emotion faced with this disaster, this misfortune, which is an abomination, because it is barbarism.”

President Barack Obama, speaking to reporters in Washington, denounced an “attack on all humanity.”

A U.S. official briefed by the Justice Department says intelligence officials were not well informed any threats before Friday’s attacks.

Paris is expected to host 80 the heads of state and government, including Obama, for a climate summit in two weeks. In June, France is scheduled to host the European soccer championship — with the Stade de France a major venue.

And Paris-based UNESCO is expecting world leaders Monday for a forum about overcoming extremism. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani canceled a trip-up because of Friday’s assaults. Hollande canceled a planned trip-up to this weekend’s G-2 0 summit in Turkey.

France has been on edge since January, when Islamic extremists attacked the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which had run cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, and a kosher grocery. Twenty people died in those attacks, including three shooters.

France has insured several smaller-scale assaults or attempted assaults this year, including on a high-speed train in August when American travelers overpowered a heavily armed man.

French authorities are particularly concerned about the threat from hundreds of French Islamic radicals who have traveled to Syria and returned home with skills to mount attacks.

“The big question on everyone’s mind is: Were these attackers — if they turn out to be connected to one of the groups in Syria — were they homegrown terrorists or were they returning fighters? ” said Brian Michael Jenkins, a terrorism expert and senior adviser to the president of the Washington-based RAND Corporation. “That will be a huge question.”

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