Terrorists staged multiple simultaneous attacks in Paris Friday night, killing scores of people with automatic gunfire and explosions.
About 100 people died at a single location when at least three gunmen opened fire with automatic weapons at a Paris music hall before taking scores of people hostage. Police later stormed the building, killing the attackers.
Up to a thousand people were in the audience at the Bataclan concert hall where a performance by an American band was interrupted by rapid gunfire.
Many people escaped during the shootout. Witnesses said the gunmen shouted “Allahu akbar,” an Islamic Arabic expression that means “God is greatest.”
Numerous fatalities were also reported at other parts of Paris. One of the first explosions was just outside a sports stadium where President Francois Hollande and a large crowd were watching a football (soccer) match between the French and German national teams.
The blast was felt inside the stadium. Police evacuated Hollande from the stadium, but when play was stopped many people in the crowd ran onto the pitch and huddled in fear. Several other explosions took place in that area and officials say at least one may have been a suicide bombing.
State of emergency
Elsewhere in the French capital, several people were killed at a Cambodian restaurant. Attacks also were reported at other restaurants.
Authorities say in all, at least 120 people were killed and about 200 others wounded — 80 seriously — at six separate locations. Officials say they believe all the attackers are dead, and that there were about eight assailants across the various attack sites.
There has been no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks.
President Hollande declared a state of emergency and ordered France’s borders closed – an unprecedented act in 21st-century Europe. In Washington, President Barack Obama said the United States was ready to help in any way possible.
Hollande called an emergency Cabinet meeting at midnight after he issued his order to close all border crossings. He also canceled his trip to the G-20 meeting in Turkey scheduled to begin on Sunday.
At the White House, Obama said the coordinated attacks in Paris were an “outrageous attempt to terrorize civilians.”
Vice President Joe Biden said, “Such savagery can never threaten who we are.”
Secretary of State John Kerry described the attacks as “heinous, evil” and “vile.”
Defense Secretary Ash Carter said “the horrific and barbaric attacks in Paris were more than an attack on the nation or people of France — they were an assault on our common human dignity.”
U.S. officials said the embassy in France has been checking on the safety of all Americans in Paris. However, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said in the U.S. capital that there was “no specific or credible threat to the United States.”
But security has been stepped up in some major U.S. cities as a precaution.
Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron said on Twitter, “We will do whatever we can do to help.” He said he was shocked by the events in Paris, and his thoughts and prayers are with the French people.
At the United Nations, a spokesman said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “condemns the despicable terrorist attacks” and “demands the immediate release of the numerous individuals reportedly being held hostage in the Bataclan theater.”
‘Vulnerabilities in open societies’
Brian Katulis, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, told VOA the Paris attacks “all look like they were coordinated to have maximum impact, and to send a message.”
“It demonstrates that there are a lot of vulnerabilities in open societies that can be exploited by whatever terrorist groups are carrying out these actions,” Katulis said.
Friday’s assault evoked memories of an attack by Islamist gunmen in January that killed 17 people.
Paris is due to host a major international conference beginning at the end of the month — U.N.-sponsored meetings on the global effort to control global warming.
VOA White House Correspondent Aru Pande, National Security Correspondent Jeff Seldin, Luis Ramirez, Lisa Bryant from Paris, and Jamie Dettmer contributed to this report.