Eiffel Tower goes dark as France mourns
(The Philippine Star) - November 15, 2015 - 9:00am

PARIS – The Eiffel Tower stood dark in a symbol of mourning Saturday night as France struggled to absorb the deadliest violence on its soil since World War II: coordinated gun and suicide-bombing attacks across Paris that left at least 129 people dead and 352 injured.

President Francois Hollande vowed that France would wage “merciless” war on the Islamic State (IS) group, which claimed responsibility for the mayhem, as investigators raced to track down their accomplices and uncover possible links to networks in Belgium and Syria.

Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said three groups of attackers, including seven suicide bombers, carried out the “act of barbarism” that shattered a Parisian Friday night.

He said the attackers in the Bataclan concert hall, where 89 people died, mentioned Syria and Iraq during their rampage. Of the hundreds wounded in the six attacks, 99 were in critical condition.

Pope Francis was “shaken,” describing the attacks as “inhuman.”

“I don’t understand these things, done by human beings…there cannot be justification, religious or human. It’s inhuman,” an emotional pontiff said during a telephone interview with TG2000 television.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) joined the global concern on the terrorist attacks as Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle called for solidarity.

“We cannot isolate ourselves from what is happening in different parts of the world…the constant violence and battles and, this morning, the news of what happened in Paris,” Cardinal Tagle said in a statement posted on the CBCP website.

He called on Filipinos to unite in prayer for the victims and their grieving loved ones.

Late Saturday, a crowd of up to 250 people gathered for an impromptu candlelight vigil at the Place de la Republique, the site of a massive demonstration in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo killings earlier this year.

In Washington, a crowd gathered outside the White House for a vigil near a statue of the Marquis de Lafayette, the French general for whom the park in front of the executive mansion is named.

In New York, the Empire State Building went dark for a second night in sympathy for people of Paris, while One World Trade Center was lit with the colors of the French flag.

Aftermath

Hollande, who declared three days of national mourning and raised 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 France would increase its military efforts to crush the IS and that it would “be merciless toward the barbarians of Islamic State group.” France is part of a US-led coalition that targets IS in Syria and Iraq.

The IS group claimed responsibility in an online statement, both in Arabic and French, circulated by supporters. It was not immediately possible to confirm the authenticity of the claim, which bore the group’s logo and resembled previous verified statements from the group.

The statement called Paris “the capital of prostitution and obscenity” and mocked France’s air attacks on suspected IS targets in Syria and Iraq, saying France’s air power was “of no use to them in the streets and rotten alleys of Paris.”

Many of Paris’ top tourist attractions closed down Saturday, including the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum and the Disneyland theme park east of the capital. Some 3,000 troops were deployed to help restore order and reassure a frightened populace.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve announced that all public demonstrations would be banned until Thursday and local governments throughout the country would have the option to impose nightly curfews.

The attacks, on an unusually balmy November Friday evening, struck at the heart of Parisian nightlife, including at a soccer match, which draws together spectators of all social classes and backgrounds.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said the attacks had targeted the Paris of diversity, “probably because this example of living together, which is so strong in our city, is unbearable for fanatical people.”

Parisians expressed shock, disgust and defiance in equal measure.

Some areas were quiet, but hundreds queued outside a hospital near the Bataclan concert hall to donate blood. As a shrine of flowers expanded along the sidewalk, a lone guitarist sang John Lennon’s peace ballad, “Imagine.”

Prosecutor Molins said one suspect was identified from fingerprints as a French-born man with a criminal record. In addition, a Syrian passport found near the body of another attacker was linked to a man who entered the European Union through a Greek island last month.

Officials in Greece said the passport’s owner entered in October through Leros, one of the islands that tens of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty in Syria and elsewhere have been using as a gateway into the European Union.

Molins said the Syria-linked attacker was not known to French intelligence services.

If the attack does involve militants who traveled to Europe amid millions of refugees from the Middle East, the implications could be profound. – AP, Edu Punay

ACIRC ARABIC AND FRENCH ATTACKS BATACLAN BELGIUM AND SYRIA CARDINAL TAGLE EIFFEL TOWER EUROPEAN UNION ISLAMIC STATE PARIS SYRIA AND IRAQ
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