On a night when thousands of Paris residents and tourists were revelling and fans were enjoying a soccer match between France and world champion Germany, horror struck in an unprecedented manner. At least 129 people were killed and 350 wounded -- of whom 99 were said to be in critical condition -- in a series of coordinated attacks by suicide bombers and gunmen in Paris at a concert hall, restaurants and the national sports stadium claimed by Islamic State jihadists.
In a statement posted online today, IS said "eight brothers wearing explosive belts and carrying assault rifles" conducted a "blessed attack on... Crusader France" saying the targets were "carefully chosen".
It also referred to French air strikes on IS in Syria, threatening further attacks "as long as it continues its Crusader campaign."
The worst carnage that happened on Friday night was at a concert hall hosting an American rock band, where scores of people were held hostage and attackers hurled explosives at their captives. Police who stormed the building, killing three attackers, encountered a bloody scene of horror inside.
Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins said as many as five attackers may have been killed, though it was not clear how many there were altogether and how many were still at large.
In addition to the deaths at the concert hall, another 30 people were killed in five separate shootings in the 10th and 11th arrondissements, according to Paris’ chief prosecutor François Molins. The area to the east and south of Place de la République is typically thronged with diners and partygoers on a Friday night.
Other attackers set off at least two explosions outside the Stade de France soccer stadium, where a large crowd, including French President Francois Hollande, had gathered to watch the French and German national teams play. One police officer said there were casualties there, but they weren’t confirmed by the prosecutor’s office. Play continued but spectators later streamed onto the field and out the exits.
The discovery of a Syrian passport near the body of another of the assailants at the concert hall appeared to justify fears over the threat posed to Europe by extremism in West Asia.
The attacks, which saw the first-ever suicide bombings on French soil, were "prepared, organised and planned overseas, with help from inside (France) which the investigation will establish," Hollande said.
Analysts at Eurasia Group said the attacks "confirm a structural shift in the modus operandi of the Islamic State, and represent a prelude to additional attacks in the West."
Following the attacks, Hollande declared a nationwide state of emergency -- the first in decades -- and announced the closure of France’s borders to stop perpetrators escaping. The Paris metro railway was closed and schools, universities and municipal buildings were ordered to stay shut on Saturday. However some rail and air services are expected to run.
Hollande, who had to be evacuated from the stadium when the bombs went off outside, said in a televised address that the nation would stand firm and united.
“This is a terrible ordeal that again assails us,” he said. “We know where it comes from, who these criminals are, who these terrorists are.”
Hollande later declared three days of national mourning, and France will hold a minute's silence at midday on Monday when flags will be lowered to half mast.
In a sign of the tension gripping the world's most visited city, the Eiffel Tower was closed indefinitely and the main cinema chains shut on police advice.
Disneyland Paris also said it would not open in a move of solidarity and several of Paris' big department stores were also closed after initially opening for several hours.
He later went to the scene of the bloodiest attack, the Bataclan music hall, and vowed that the government would wage a “merciless” fight against terrorism. All emergency services were mobilized, police leave was cancelled, 1,500 army reinforcements were drafted into the Paris region and hospitals recalled staff to cope with the casualties.
France has been on edge since January, when Islamic extremists attacked the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, and a kosher grocery. Twenty people died, including the three attackers. The Charlie Hebdo attackers claimed links to extremists in Yemen, while the kosher market attacker claimed ties to the Islamic State group.
What happened at each location:
>> Shootings and hostages taken at concert hall
The most deaths have occurred at The Bataclan, a popular concert venue. At approximately 9:30 pm, several armed individuals entered and began shooting for about 10 minutes. At around 10 pm, the gunmen began taking hostages. French media quoted officials saying that about 82 people were killed here.
>> Shooting at restaurant
The police said that shootings occurred in a crowded Cambodian restaurant in the 10th Arrondissement.
>> Another restaurant shooting
Gunmen aimed at a bar at the corner of Rue de Charonne and Rue Faidherbe, killing about a dozen, according to French television.
>> Explosions outside a bar near stadium
At least two explosions were heard outside the Stade de France, the country’s main sports stadium during a France-Germany soccer match.