HORROR struck on the night of Friday, Nov. 13 in Paris, France, the site of multiple coordinated terrorist attacks, including mass shootings, suicide bombings, and the taking of hostages. The attacks have reportedly left at least 129 people dead and 352 wounded, according to multiple sources.
The Islamic State has claimed full responsibility on the day after the deadly unprecedented attacks in the French capital, prompting French President François Hollande to declare a state of emergency and declare that France is “at war.” He further said that France is committed to “destroying” the Islamic State group, according to BBC.
In public, multilingual statements on ISIS’s encrypted messaging accounts, the terror group called the assaults “the first of the storm,” and mocked the Western European city as the “capital of prostitution and obscenity.”
The style of the attack was in line with ISIS’s tactic of indiscriminate killings, and goes against the guidelines of Al Qaeda, said the New York Times, which states that Qaeda operatives should avoid attacks that could inadvertently cause the death of Muslim civilians.
Two days after the bloodshed, Hollande launched airstrikes on ISIS’s de factocapital and stronghold in Raqqa, Syria. He also promised to move an aircraft carrier to the Middle East, as part of a large effort to intensify airstrike bombings, assaults, and rocket launches in Syria, reported BBC and NPR.
“The attacks represent an aggression against our country, against our values, against its youth and its way of life,” Hollande said in a joint session of both houses of parliament. “The faces of the dead people, of the wounded, of the families don’t leave my mind…in my determination to combat terrorism, I want France to remain itself. The barbarians who attack France would like to disfigure it. They will not make it change. They must never be able to spoil France’s soul.”
Multiple raids in Paris
Starting around 9:20 pm on Nov. 13, three explosions occurred at the Stade de France, the national sports stadium, where an anticipated soccer match between France and Germany was taking place that was attended by Hollande. The French president was immediately removed from the scene, and the game was allowed to finish before fans were swiftly evacuated.
“About 15 minutes from the time the game started, we heard a loud bang, like big,” Filipina Rachel Gunther, who was attending the soccer game, told ABC7. “It shook the stadium. And then the second bang or boom happened within minutes of each other and we thought, ‘boy, they really enjoy their soccer here…’ we thought it was a joke.”
“Thousands of those ahead of us started charging back. Like running wild, desperate, terrorized looks in their faces, as if something was following them…All I could think of was, ‘I’m going to get trampled if I don’t run with the crowd.’ So I started running and it was the most terrifying ordeal I’ve ever experienced. I was literally running for my life,” Gunther continued.
The stadium in the Saint-Denis suburb resulted in the death of four, including three suicide bombers. A Syrian passport was found near the body of one of the bombers killed near the stadium, reported the Los Angeles Times, but authorities believe it was fake, according to BBC.
At the same time, several street shootings and bombing attacks throughout the city also occurred at four populated outdoor plazas known for their restaurants and nightlife. The shootings by gunmen killed at least 25, said the Associated Press.
The deadliest attack was a mass-shooting at the Bataclan music hall theater, which has been repeatedly threatened for its past sponsorship of Jewish events. An evening concert by the Eagles of Death Metal, an American band from Southern California, had an attendance of over 1,000 people at the venue. Around 9:45 pm, three men with assault rifles entered the hall and opened fire on the crowd, and several hand grenades were also reportedly thrown in the chaotic scene.
Witnesses said they heard rounds of automatic and Kalashnikov rifles fire, and gunmen shouting “Allahu akbar! (God is greatest)” as they entered the crowded hall.
“When they started shooting we just saw flashes,” said an escaped witness, according to NY Times. “People got down on the ground right away.”
French news services said that as many as 100 hostages were taken at Bataclan, many of them apparently killed later by ISIS.
Paris prosecutor François Molins said that five out of seven of the dead terrorists have been identified, and police have launched a manhunt for eighth and ninth suspects.
French and Belgian police are searching for Brussells-born Frenchman Salah Abdeslam, 26 who has previously fought for the Islamic State in Syria and has been linked to other terrorist attacks, The New York Times reported. Investigators say Abdeslam escaped back to Belgium on Saturday following the attacks.
Authorities are also focusing on a Belgian of Moroccan descent, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, 27, who is believed to be the possible architect of the assaults. The New York Times reported that Abaaoud is believed to be in Syria with fellow Islamic State militants.
On Tuesday, Nov. 17, Reuters reported that German police arrested seven individuals, at least three of whom are foreign citizens, linked to the attacks.
The Eiffel Tower had been dark and closed for the past few days following the attacks. On Monday, Nov. 16, it reopened to tourists and Parisians, brightly lit with the red, white, and blue colors of the French flag.
“The United States and France are not only friends, we are family,” said US Secretary of State John Kerry. “And today, the entire world joins our family in heartbreak yet again. Don’t mistake what these attacks represent. This is not a clash of civilizations. These terrorists have declared war against all civilization… it is an assault on our collective sense of reason and purpose, an attack on civility itself.”
US President Barack Obama also stressed solidarity with the French people, defending his administration’s policy in fighting ISIS, said NBC News.
“ISIS is the face of evil,” Obama said at the conclusion of the G20 summit in Turkey. “Our goal is to destroy this barbaric organization…these are killers with fantasies of glory. Once again, we’ve seen an outrageous attempt to terrorize innocent civilians.”
“There will be intensification of the strategy that we put forward,” he added. “The strategy that we are putting forward is the strategy that will ultimately work…but as I said in the beginning, it is going to take time.”
On Monday, ISIS purportedly released a new video from Iraq threatening Western countries that are launching airstrikes against the organization, including Italy, Belgium and the US: “the same fate will happen to them.”
“We say to the states that take part in the crusader campaign that, by God, you will have a day, God willing, like France’s and by God, as we struck France in the center of its abode in Paris, then we swear that we will strike America at its center in Washington,” said one militant in the video, according to Reuters.
“You will not feel safe so long as you keep bombing,” the video message said. “You will be killed as long as you keep killing.”
“Americans don’t have a religious test to our compassion,” said Obama. “The values we are fighting against ISIL for is that we don’t discriminate against people because of their faith.”
An immediate release by Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch read, “We stand in solidarity with France, as it has stood with us so often in the past. This is a devastating attack on our shared values and we at the Department of Justice will do everything within our power to assist and work in partnership with our French law enforcement colleagues.”
US governors say they won’t admit Syrian refugees
In wake of the attacks, about 30 governors in the US are seeking to ban the admission of Syrian refugees.
Michigan and Alabama were the first states to refuse the relocation of refugees on Sunday, Nov. 15, after which they were joined by Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin, among others.
Republican governors say there is a chance that among refugees are those with terrorist ties, USA Today reported. Only one Democrat, Gov. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, joined the GOP governors in urging the federal government to cease the admission of refugees until more details about the vetting process are known.
“The acts of terror committed over the weekend are a tragic reminder to the world that evil exists and takes the form of terrorists who seek to destroy the basic freedoms we will always fight to preserve,” Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said in a statement. “I will not place Alabamians at even the slightest, possible risk of an attack on our people.”
Michigan had been working to attract Syrian refugees to the state, but on Monday, Nov. 16, Gov. Rick Snyder said he is suspending the program, USA Today reported.
“Michigan is a welcoming state and we are proud of our rich history of immigration,” Snyder said in a statement. “But our first priority is protecting the safety of our residents.”
The governor further demanded that the Department of Homeland Security review its security measures for screening refugees, but added that not all people with the ethnic background of those who coordinated the Paris attacks are the same.
“It’s also important to remember that these attacks are the efforts of extremists and do not reflect the peaceful ways of people of Middle Eastern descent here and around the world,” Snyder said.
The Obama administration previously announced plans to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees throughout the next year and the State Department said Monday it would not change that plan. A September report from The New York Times said the United States could end up taking in a total of more than 100,000 refugees.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on Monday announced that they issued executive orders to suspend the relocation of refugees in their states. Jindal also urged Obama to hold off in accepting additional refugees.
“It would be prudent to pause the process of refugees coming to the United States. Authorities need to investigate what happened in Europe before this problem comes to the United States,” Jindal said.
Legislators have also echoed the sentiment of opposed US governors, including House Speaker Paul Ryan who plans on introducing a bill this week to suspend the US refugee program, CNBC reported Tuesday.
Obama, while addressing reporters on Monday, called out Republican candidates who have objected to admitting refugees to the United States, according to CNN.
“When I hear a political leader suggesting that there should be a religious test for which a person who is fleeing from a war torn country is admitted … when some of those folks themselves come from families who benefited from protection when they were fleeing political persecution, that is shameful. We don’t have religious tests to our compassion,” Obama said.
Democrat governors of at least seven states – Connecticut, Delaware Hawaii, Kentucky, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Washington – announced Monday that they would continue allowing resettlement of refugees.
“It is unfortunate that anyone would use the tragic events in Paris to send a message that we do not understand the plight of these refugees, ignoring the fact that the people we are talking about are fleeing the perpetrators of terror,” Delaware Gov. Jack Markell said in a statement.
While Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker told reporters on Monday that he would say “no as of right now” to accepting refugees from Syria, state Sen. Edward J. Markey was more welcoming.
“We should not close our hearts or our doors to the women, children and families that are fleeing the Middle East to escape war and the daily terror, violence and chaos it brings. America has always been a refuge for the persecuted and oppressed,” Markey said in a statement.
The United States has so far accepted more than 2,000 Syrian refugees since the civil war began in the country in March 2011. Refugees have been admitted to 138 cities and towns and 36 states. The bulk of refugees are located in California, Texas, Michigan, Arizona and Illinois, according to wrapsnet.org, where the U.S. government posts its official numbers.
Louisiana has 14 refugees, Ohio has 76, and New Jersey has 88.
Immigration and constitutional attorneys and experts have raised doubts whether governors have a say in the accepting or refusal of refugees.
“The one thing I feel very comfortable saying is there is absolutely no constitutional power for a state to exclude anyone from its territories,” said Stephen Legomsky, a law professor at Washington University of St. Louis and former chief counsel of US Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Obama administration.
Rachel Rosenbloom, an immigration law professor at Northeastern, told the Boston Globe that no legal basis exists for state to keep out refugees.
“States can’t keep out people who they consider to be undesirable. States don’t play a significant enough role in this process where it matters what they think,” she said.
Furthermore, the Supreme Court has ruled that states cannot prohibit people from traveling across states once they are in the United States legally, according to the Globe.
Fourteen states have not admitted any refugees: Alabama, Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming. The District of Columbia also has no refugees.
Student from Cal State Long Beach among fatalities
Victims included people from all nationalities and walks of life, from Algeria to Egypt, Mexico, Spain, the US, and the UK.
Among fatalities in the Friday attacks was 23-year-old Nohemi Gonzalez from El Monte, a junior studying design at Cal State Long Beach (CSULB) who was completing a semester abroad at Strate School of Design.
Gonzalez, who is so far the only American victim identified in the attacks, was killed at a restaurant while having dinner with three friends.
One of Gonzalez’s schoolmates in Paris saw her get shot in the stomach, but she was able to escape from the Le Petit Cambodge restaurant, ABC 7 reported.
The spray of gunfire at the sidewalk bistro left a total of 19 dead, including Gonzalez.
Hundreds on Sunday, Nov. 15, gathered at the university in Long Beach to mourn Gonzalez’s death and remember her spirit, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“Nohemi possessed a character that was truly rare,” Martin Herman, chairman of the university’s design department, told the crowd on Sunday, according to the LA Times.
“What I saw in her was a beautiful soul who practiced goodness and compassion in her friendships and relationships with others. She exuded such energy and enthusiasm and infused the entire department with these same qualities by virtue of her presence.”
At the university, Gonzalez was described as a “shining star” in the design program by professor Michael LaForte, and a hardworking student with a bubbly, fun-loving personality. Herman added that she frequently headed the design workshop and “ran a very tight ship.”
“She was always the last one to leave the shop,” said a classmate, Alex Schumacher, according to USA Today.
Francis Redublo, 24, a design student at CSULB, told the Asian Journal that Gonzalez’s passion for design was evident.
“Design was her calling and you could tell that it lit a fire inside her. She was running everything! From being a [teacher’s assistant] and working to open shop, to running the print lab, to running the laser cutting room, she was all over the place. The design family will truly miss her,” she said.
Gonzalez’s mother, Beatriz Gonzalez, is struggling to cope with the loss of her only daughter, who she said wanted to have a career and family.
“I feel lost, sadness and she was my only daughter,” her mother said, according to ABC. “She was a very strong young woman. She had big decisions, when she went to do something she was committed to whatever she was doing.”
Her boyfriend of almost four years, who she met in shop class, Tim Mraz, said, “she ran that place, man. She owned it. Now, she will “always be here. She will be still roaming those halls.”
In a statement on Saturday, Nov. 14, CSU Chancellor Timothy B. White expressed outrage at the attacks.
“My heart is heavy and I am deeply saddened for the family and Long Beach State community, and I grieve with all those who have lost a cherished one,” White said in a statement. “Many campuses in the CSU have student studying abroad in France, and all others are known to be safe,” he said.
A total of 17 students from CSULB were studying abroad, and the other 16 were accounted for as safe, according to a school official, ABC reported.