Putting his nation’s security at its highest level, Hollande vowed to hit back against the militants and declared three days of national mourning.
Speaking after an emergency security meeting, Hollande said Friday’s attacks were “committed by a terrorist army, the Islamic State group, a jihadist army, 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.”
“France will be pitiless concerning the barbarity of Daesh,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for the militants, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
France is bombing ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq as part of a U.S.-led coalition.
French police were hunting Saturday for possible accomplices to eight terrorists who carried out the attacks at six sites in the city, employing seven suicide bombs. At the Bataclan concert hall, where terrorists triggered explosives and fired shots during a performance by the California rock band Eagles of Death Metal, police said the bodies of more than 110 victims remained inside. Other victims were killed at a stadium and at cafes.
Police said a Syrian passport was found on the body of one suicide bomber at the stadium, French media reported.
Hollande earlier declared a state of emergency and ordered 1,500 extra troops to guard buildings and schools.
Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre, a spokeswoman for the Paris prosecutor’s office, told the Associated Press early Saturday that eight terrorists died in the attacks, seven of them in suicide bombings. The eighth was killed by security forces when they raided the concert hall. She added that it’s possible that terrorists tied to the attacks remain at large.
Investigators are searching for information about the attackers. No information has been released about them, including their nationalities.
German media reported Saturday that a 51-year-old man arrested last week after firearms, explosives and hand grenades were found in his car near the border between Germany and Austria has been linked to the Paris attacks, Ludwig Waldinger, a spokesman for Bavarian state police, told the AP. “He has refused to say what he planned to do or where the weapons came from,” Waldinger
In addition to the scores of victims at the concert venue, at least 11 died in a Paris restaurant in the 10th arrondissement and the AP said that three suicide bombs went off outside the national stadium, where Hollande was among the spectators at an exhibition soccer match between the French and German nationals teams.
It was the bloodiest day for France since World War II and comes just 11 months after 16 people were killed in terror attacks on the Paris offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery store. A police officer was also shot dead by a militant between those attacks.
“Once again we are under attack,” Hollande said in a national television address. “The terrorists want to scare us and instill fear,” he said. “There are reasons to be afraid, but the nation knows how to defend itself and mobilize its forces and how to defeat the terrorists.”
Near the Bataclan concert hall, at the Best Western Saint Martin Bastille, receptionist Samir Bedi said hotel guests rushed into his lobby as the attacks began. They saw a man in a ski mask in the street, heard gunshots and ran away, he said.
“I stayed calm,” said Bedi. “I wanted to protect the clients, so I took them to shelter — the downstairs restaurant.”
In the restaurant, they read the news on their smartphones and realized a terror attack was taking place. They hunkered down and, like many Parisians, remained glued to the news for much of the night.
Le Monde posted video shot from an apartment balcony that shows dozens of people fleeing gunfire outside the Bataclan down a passageway to a side street.
At least one person is shown writhing on the ground as scores more stream past, some of them bloodied or limping. The camera pans down the street to reveal more fleeing people dragging two bodies along the ground, leaving a trail of blood.. A woman and two others can be seen clinging to upper-floor balcony railings in a desperate attempt to stay out of the line of fire.
Le Monde said its reporter, Daniel Psenny, who filmed the scene from his apartment balcony was shot in the arm after he stopped filming, when he went downstairs to help someone in the alley.
Fateh Kimouche, 38, founder of the prominent muslim blog Al Kanz, called for a “united front against terrorists.” But he also expressed concern about a backlash against Muslims. “The Muslim community is in mourning like the rest of the French, but also in the anxiety of retaliation,” Kimouche said.
Airports in Europe were on heightened alert. The north terminal of Gatwick Airport, near London, was evacuated Saturday after police said a man discarded a suspicious object there. A bomb disposal team was sent to investigate.
In Washington, President Obama called the assaults an “attack on all humanity and the universal values we all share.” He added it was a “heartbreaking situation” and said he did not want to speculate about who may be responsible for the tragedy.
Obama called Hollande to offer his condolences and to restate “the United States’ steadfast, unwavering support for the people of France” whom he called “our oldest ally and friend.” The leaders promised to work together to defeat the “scourge of terrorism.”
Following an emergency meeting with ministers and security officials Saturday, Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron said: “We must be prepared for a number of British casualties and we’re doing all we can to help those caught up in the attack.” He said the threat level to Britain is severe, meaning an attack is highly likely.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron expressed their shock.
In a statement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “Israel stands shoulder to shoulder with French President Francois Hollande and with the people of France in our common battle against terrorism.”
Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency reported that in a message to Hollande, President Hassan Rouhani strongly condemned the attacks “on behalf of the Iranian nation who are victims of the evil phenomenon of terrorism.”
Rouhani postponed trips to Italy and France that were due to begin Saturday, the news agency reported.