French President Francois Hollande vowed to attack the Islamic State without mercy as the jihadist group claimed responsibility Saturday for orchestrating the deadliest attacks inflicted on France since World War II.
Hollande said at least 127 people died Friday night in shootings at Paris cafes, suicide bombings near France’s national stadium and a hostage-taking slaughter inside a concert hall.
Hollande declared three days of national mourning and raised the nation’s security to its highest level. He the carnage “an act of war that was prepared, organized, planned from abroad with internal help.”
The Islamic State group’s claim of responsibility appeared in Arabic and French in an online statement circulated by ISIS supporters. It was not immediately possible to confirm the authenticity of the admission, which bore the group’s logo and resembled previous verified statements from the group.
As Hollande addressed the nation, French anti-terror police worked to identify potential accomplices to the attackers, who remained a mystery to the public: their nationalities, their motives, even their exact number. Later Saturday police officials said a Syrian passport had been found on body of one suicide bomber at the Paris stadium.
Authorities said eight attackers died, seven in suicide bombings, a new terror tactic in France. Police said they shot and killed the other assailant.
Prosecutor’s office spokeswoman Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre said authorities couldn’t rule out the possibility that other militants involved in the attack remained at large.
The violence raised questions about security for the millions of tourists who come to Paris and for world events routinely hosted in the French capital.
One of Europe’s most heavily visited tourist attractions, the Disneyland theme park east of the capital, announced it would close on Saturday, a rarity.
Hollande said France — which is already bombing ISIS 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 Islamic State group.”
Reflecting fears in other European capitals of the risk of coordinated or copycat attacks, the British government scheduled a meeting of its own emergency COBRA intelligence committee overseen by Prime Minister David Cameron. Italy said it, too, was raising security levels on borders and major public places.
Friday night’s militants launched at least six gun and bomb attacks in rapid succession on apparently indiscriminate civilian targets.
Three suicide bombs targeted spots around the national Stade de France, north of the capital, where Hollande was watching an exhibition soccer match. Fans inside the stadium recoiled at the sound of explosions, but the match continued amid rising spectator fears.
Around the same time, gunmen attacked n a trendy Paris neighborhood, shooting into a string of cafes, which were crowded on an unusually warm November night. At least 37 people were killed, according to Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins.
The attackers next stormed a concert hall, the Bataclan, which was hosting the American rock 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.
France has seen several smaller-scale attacks or attempts 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.