Prosecutor: Paris attackers worked in three coordinated teams

Suicide bombers wore identical explosive vests in coordinated violence that killed at least 129 and injured over 350

The Paris prosecutor announced Saturday that 129 people were killed and 352 injured, including 99 critically, in coordinated attacks on the city Friday night that French President François Hollande called an “act of war.”

Prosecutor François Molins said Saturday that the attackers worked in three coordinated teams, and that the seven who blew themselves up wore identical explosives vests. 

The spokeswoman for the Paris prosecutor's office says members of one of the attackers' family — a Frenchman born in the Paris suburbs — have been detained.

Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre declined to say specify who was detained but said there were searches underway.

Hollande declared three days of mourning after the assault and raised the country’s threat level to its highest. He blamed the carnage on “a terrorist army, the Islamic State group, a jihadist army,” which carried out attacks not only against France but also “against the values that we defend, everywhere in the world, against what we are: a free country that means something to the whole planet.”

ISIL has claimed responsibility for the assault. In a statement, the group said its fighters, armed with suicide-bomb belts and machine guns, carried out the attacks at locations that were carefully studied. The assault was designed to show France that it would remain a top target for the group as long as it continues its current polices, the statement continued.

Belgium on Saturday made several arrests linked to the attacks in Paris. The country’s justice minister told the VRT network that the arrests came after a car with Belgian license plates was seen close to the Bataclan concert hall in Paris on Friday night, one of the attack sites. He said it was a rental vehicle and that police organized several raids in a neighborhood in Brussels on Saturday.

Additionally, two French police officials say that authorities have identified one of the suicide bombers in the attacks as a young Frenchman who had been flagged by security officials. The police said he was among the attackers who blew themselves up after the rampage and hostage taking at the Bataclan.

Police officials also said that at least one of the suicide bombers who targeted another site, France’s national stadium, was found to have a Syrian passport.

The search continued Saturday for possible accomplices of the eight known assailants who terrorized Paris concertgoers, cafe diners and soccer fans the night before with the coordinated suicide bombings and shootings. None of the attackers have been publicly identified. 

It also emerged Saturday that an American college student, Nohemi Gonzalez, 23, was among those killed. She was enrolled at California State University at Long Beach, a spokesman for the university said. A senior, she was studying for a semester at the Strate College of Design in France, according to school authorities.

French authorities have closed the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum and other top tourist sites in Paris until further notice. 

Friday’s violence, which occurred 11 months after gunmen linked to Al-Qaeda carried out a deadly attack on the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, was the worst atrocity to strike the French capital in recent memory.

Three suicide bombers targeted a bar area near the Stade de France, in St.-Denis, north of Paris, during a soccer match, attended by Hollande, as gunmen attacked audience members at the Bataclan. There were also shootings and explosions near restaurants and bars in the city’s 10th and 11th arrondissements, near the center of the city.

Eyewitnesses told Al Jazeera that some attackers shouted “Allahu Akbar,” Arabic for “God is great,” during the carnage.

A witness told Al Jazeera that several men entered the Bataclan concert hall and started firing into the air. An American band called Eagles of Death Metal was playing to a packed crowd of close to 1,000 people.

Attackers held as many as 100 hostages for several hours at the concert hall until French security forces raided the venue and defeated the hostage takers, who were reportedly executing people inside. 

Four attackers were killed at Bataclan, three of whom detonated explosive vests they were wearing, officials said. Police shot and killed the fourth.

An Al Jazeera reporter described seeing "piles" of stretchers being taken into the concert hall. At least 80 people were killed at the venue, according to police.

The governor of Bavaria says the arrest of a man in Germany last week may be linked to the Paris attacks.

A spokesman for Bavarian state police spokesman confirmed that firearms, explosives and hand grenades were found when undercover police stopped a man near the German-Austrian border on Nov. 5.

Ludwig Waldinger declined to confirm reports by public broadcaster Bayrischer Rundfunk that the man appeared to be en route to Paris when he was arrested.

Bavarian governor Horst Seehofer told reporters Saturday there were "reasonable grounds" to assume that there may be a link to the Paris attacks.

President Hollande, who was evacuated from the stadium, went to Bataclan to monitor the situation, along with Prime Minister Manuel Valls, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve and Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, according to French newspaper Le Figaro.

The government deployed 1,500 soldiers around Paris, and officials were discussing response strategies in the coming days as the investigation into the attacks develops.

French police instructed city residents to remain indoors until all the assailants are captured. All schools and public services have been shut down and will remain closed on Saturday, officials said.

BFM television said several people were killed in the restaurant shootings. A journalist on the scene from broadcaster France 24 said he saw bodies on the ground outside.

An hour after reports of the first attacks, several French news outlets reported another shooting near the Les Halles shopping center and the Louvre museum. An attacker also detonated a suicide vest on Boulevard Voltaire in eastern Paris.

Shortly afterward, Hollande declared a state of emergency across France and closed its borders. 

“This is a horrible ordeal that, once again, assails us,” he said. “Faced with terrorism, France needs to be strong.”

U.S. President Barack Obama gave a brief statement to reporters Friday evening at the White House. "Once again, we've seen an outrageous attempt to terrorize innocent civilians," he said.

"We stand prepared and ready to provide whatever assistance that the government and the people of France need," he said, and he pledged to "bring these terrorists to justice and go after any terrorist networks" involved.

U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson also issued a statement saying that the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation are not aware of "specific or credible threats of an attack on the U.S. homeland of the type that occurred in Paris tonight" but that they were working with local law enforcement officials to ensure the public’s safety.

U.S. Capitol police said they were monitoring events in Paris and had enhanced patrols throughout Capitol Hill "out of an abundance of caution."

American Airlines on Friday evening suspended all flights to Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport and is "awaiting additional information," an airline spokesman told Le Figaro. 

After the attacks, witnesses described scenes of fear and confusion in neighborhoods that are popular with young people and tourists and are packed on a Friday night.

"I was in the restaurant when the gunshots were heard. We fell to the floor with all the other diners. I didn’t see any gunmen. I was just looking at the floor," said Charlie Brehaut. "I saw a woman who was lying next to me, and I realized she had been fatally wounded in the chest, and there were a few more casualties."

Nick Holden, dining at a restaurant in central Paris, told Al Jazeera what he saw in the first moments after the shootings.

"A lady came in crying. We assumed some sort of domestic dispute, and someone said she had seen someone shot," he said. "We couldn't believe what was said until we heard the sirens and people started to run, and that’s what we did."

Parisians have been on edge since January, when two gunmen affiliated with Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 people, including much of the weekly's editorial staff and three police officers.

The assault on Charlie Hebdo was the beginning of three days of violence in the French capital, as a third gunman, in apparent coordination with the other attackers, shot and killed a policewoman and took several hostages at a kosher grocery store. All three gunmen were eventually killed by French security forces; four hostages were also killed in a police raid on the grocery store.

With wire services

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