The November 2015 Paris attacks were a series of coordinated terrorist attacks that occurred on Friday 13 November 2015 in Paris, France and the city's northern suburb, Saint-Denis. Beginning at 21:16 CET, three suicide bombers struck outside the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, during a football match. This was followed by several mass shootings, and a suicide bombing, at cafés and restaurants. Gunmen carried out another mass shooting and took hostages at an Eagles of Death Metal concert in the Bataclan theatre, leading to a stand-off with police. The attackers were shot or blew themselves up when police raided the theatre.
In response to the attacks, a three-month state of emergency was declared across the country to help fight terrorism, which involved the banning of public demonstrations, and allowing the police to carry out searches without a warrant, put anyone under house arrest without trial and block websites that encouraged acts of terrorism. On 15 November, France launched the biggest airstrike of Opération Chammal, its contribution to the anti-ISIL bombing campaign, striking ISIL targets in Raqqa. On 18 November, the suspected lead operative of the attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, was killed in a police raid in Saint-Denis, along with two others.
The Bataclan theatre had been threatened a number of times by pro-Palestinian activists because of its public support for Israel. Two Jewish brothers, Pascal and Joël Laloux, owned the Bataclan for more than 40 years before selling it in September 2015. In 2011, a group calling itself Army of Islam told French security services they had planned an attack on the Bataclan because its owners were Jewish.
00:58 – French police end the siege on the Bataclan.
All times are CET (UTC+1).
Three groups of men launched six distinct attacks: three suicide bombings in one attack, a fourth suicide bombing in another attack, and shootings at four locations in four separate attacks. Shootings were reported in the vicinity of the rue Alibert, the rue de la Fontaine-au-Roi, the rue de Charonne, the Bataclan theatre, and avenue de la République. Three explosions occurred near the Stade de France, another on boulevard Voltaire, and two of the Bataclan shooters also detonated their suicide vests as police ended the stand-off. According to the Paris prosecutor, the attackers wore suicide vests that used acetone peroxide as an explosive.
Three explosions occurred near the country's national sports stadium, the Stade de France, in the suburb of Saint-Denis, resulting in four deaths, including the three suicide bombers. The explosions happened at 21:16, 21:19,[note 1] and 21:53. The first explosion near the stadium was about 20 minutes after the start of an international friendly football match between France and Germany, which President Hollande was attending. The first bomber was prevented from entering the stadium after a security guard patted him down and discovered the suicide vest; a few seconds after being turned away, he detonated the vest, killing himself and a bystander. Investigators later surmised that the first suicide bomber had planned to detonate his vest within the stadium, triggering the crowd's panicked exit onto the streets where two other bombers were lying in wait. Ten minutes after the first bombing, the second bomber blew himself up near the stadium.[note 1] Another 23 minutes after that, the third bomber's vest detonated nearby; according to some reports, that location was at a McDonald's restaurant; others state that the bomb detonated some distance away from any discernible target.
Hollande was evacuated from the stadium at half-time, while the German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, remained at the stadium. Hollande met with his interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve to co-ordinate a response to the emergency. Two of the explosions were heard on the live televised broadcast of the match;[note 1] both football coaches were informed by French officials of a developing crisis, but players and fans were kept unaware of it until the game had finished. Hollande, concerned that the safety of the crowd outside the stadium could not be assured if the match was immediately cancelled, decided that the game should continue without a public announcement.
Following the game, fans were brought onto the pitch to await evacuation as police monitored all the exits around the venue. Security sources said all three explosions were suicide bombings. The German national football team was advised not to return to their hotel, where there had been a bomb threat earlier in the day, and they spent the night in the stadium on mattresses, along with the French team, who stayed with them in a display of camaraderie.
Restaurant shootings and bombing
Rues Bichat and Alibert
The first shootings occurred around 21:25 on the rue Bichat and the rue Alibert, near the Canal Saint-Martin in the 10th arrondissement. Attackers shot at people outside Le Carillon, a café and bar, before crossing the rue Bichat and shooting people inside the restaurant Le Petit Cambodge. According to French police, an eyewitness said one of the gunmen shouted "Allahu Akbar".Le Monde reported that 15 people were killed at these locations and 10 were critically injured. The assailants fled in one or two vehicles after the shootings. One vehicle had a Belgian number plate. Doctors and nurses from the nearby Hôpital Saint-Louis were in Le Carillon when the attacks happened and supplied emergency assistance to the wounded.
Rue de la Fontaine-au-Roi
At 21:32, a man with a Kalashnikov rifle fired shots outside Café Bonne Bière, close to the terrace of the Italian restaurant La Casa Nostra, on the rue de la Fontaine-au-Roi where it intersects with the rue du Faubourg-du-Temple south of the rue Bichat. The Paris prosecutor said five people were killed and eight were injured. An eyewitness reported a gunman firing short bursts.
Rue de Charonne
At approximately 21:36, two gunmen fired shots for several minutes at the outdoor terrace of the restaurant La Belle Équipe on the rue de Charonne in the 11th arrondissement where it intersects the rue Faidherbe, before returning to their car and driving away. Nineteen people were killed, and nine were left in critical condition.
Boulevard Voltaire bombing
At about 21:40, on the boulevard Voltaire in the 11th arrondissement, near the place de la Nation, a man sat down in the Comptoir Voltaire café and placed an order before detonating his suicide vest, killing himself and injuring fifteen people, one of them seriously.
At approximately 21:40, a mass shooting and hostage-taking occurred at the Bataclan theatre on the boulevard Voltaire in the 11th arrondissement. The American band Eagles of Death Metal was playing to an audience of around 1,500 people. About an hour into the concert, a car pulled up outside the venue and three dark-clad men with AKM assault rifles entered the hall. Witnesses heard shouts of "Allahu Akbar" just before the gunmen took up positions on the mezzanine and opened fire on the crowd. Initially, the audience mistook the gunfire for pyrotechnics. The attack lasted 20 minutes, and witnesses also reported seeing the attackers throw hand grenades into the crowd. A radio reporter attending the concert described the attackers as calm and determined, telling CNN they had reloaded three or four times. Survivors escaped via the emergency exit into the street or made their way onto the roof, with some taking refuge in toilets and offices; others lay still on the floor pretending to be dead. The band's members escaped without injury.
Around 22:00, the attackers took 60–100 concertgoers hostage as police gathered outside the venue. They threatened to decapitate a hostage and throw the corpse out of the window every five minutes. A witness who escaped told a journalist that the gunmen had mentioned Syria. One witness in the Bataclan heard a gunman say, "This is because of all the harm done by Hollande to Muslims all over the world." There were further attacks on police and first responders who arrived at the scene.
Starting at 22:15, the Brigade of Research and Intervention (BRI) arrived on the scene, followed by the elite tactical unit, RAID. The assault on the theatre began at 00:20 and lasted three minutes. Police launched the assault because of reports that the attackers had started killing hostages. They initially estimated that 100 people had been killed, but the toll was revised to 89. Two attackers died by detonating their suicide vests. Another was hit by police gunfire and his vest blew up when he fell. Identification and removal of the bodies took 10 hours, a process made difficult because some audience members had left their identity papers in the theatre's cloakroom.
Three groups, comprising three men each, executed the attacks. They wore explosive vests and belts with identical detonators. Seven perpetrators died at the scenes of their attacks. The other two were killed five days later during the Saint-Denis police raid.
On 14 November, ISIL claimed responsibility for the attacks. François Hollande said ISIL organised the attacks with help from inside France. Claimed motives were an ideological objection to Paris as a capital of abomination and perversion, retaliation for airstrikes on ISIL in Syria and Iraq, and the foreign policy of Hollande in relation to Muslims worldwide. Shortly after the attacks, ISIL's media organ, the Al-Hayat Media Group, launched a website on the dark web extolling the organisation and recommending the encrypted instant messaging service Telegram.
Fabien Clain released an audio recording the day before the attacks in which he personally claimed responsibility for the attacks. Clain is known to intelligence services as a veteran jihadist belonging to ISIL, and of French nationality.
Syrian and Egyptian passports were found near the bodies of two of the perpetrators at two attack sites, but Egyptian authorities said the passport belonged to a victim, Aleed Abdel-Razzak, and not one of the perpetrators. By 16 November, the focus of the French and Belgian investigation turned to Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the radical jihadist they believed was the leader of the plot. Abaaoud, a Belgian of Berber-Moroccan origin, had escaped to Syria after having been suspected in other plots in Belgium and France, including the thwarted 2015 Thalys train attack. Abaaoud had recruited an extensive network of accomplices, including two brothers, Brahim Abdeslam and Salah Abdeslam, to execute terrorist attacks; Abaaoud was killed in the Saint-Denis raid on 18 November.
Most of the Paris attackers were French and Belgian citizens who crossed borders without difficulty, albeit registered as terrorism suspects. Two other attackers were Iraqi. According to the French prime minister, Manuel Valls, several of the perpetrators had exploited Europe's immigration crisis to enter the continent undetected. At least some, including the alleged leader Abdelhamid Abaaoud, had visited Syria and returned radicalised. Jean-Charles Brisard, a French expert on terrorism, called this a change of paradigm, in that returning European citizens were themselves the attackers. The Los Angeles Times reported that more than 3,000 Europeans have travelled to Syria and joined ISIL and other radical groups.
Search for accomplices
Three cars were recovered in Paris after the attacks:
A grey Volkswagen Polo with Belgian licence plates abandoned near the Bataclan was hired by a French citizen living in Belgium and contained a parking ticket from the town of Molenbeek.
A SEAT was found in the Paris suburb of Montreuil on 15 November and contained assault rifles.
Police described Salah, a 26-year-old Belgian citizen, as dangerous, and warned the public not to approach him. He was arrested on 18 March 2016 during an anti-terrorist raid in the Molenbeek area of Brussels (see below). His brother, Brahim, died in the attacks. Another brother, Mohamed, was detained on 14 November in the Molenbeek area of Brussels and released after several hours of questioning. Mohamed said he did not suspect his siblings of planning anything.
On 14 November, a car was stopped at the Belgium–France border and its three occupants were questioned then released. Three more people were arrested in Molenbeek. Links to the attacks were investigated in an arrest in Germany on 5 November, when police stopped a 51-year-old man from Montenegro and found automatic handguns, hand grenades and explosives in his car.
On 15–16 November, French tactical police units raided over 200 locations in France, arresting 23 people and seizing weapons. Another 104 people were placed under house arrest.
On 17 November, police followed a female cousin of the attacker and ringleader, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, to a block of flats in Saint-Denis where they saw Abaaoud with her. The next day, police raided a flat in Saint-Denis, and Abaaoud was killed in the ensuing gunfight, which lasted several hours. Chakib Akrouh, one of the perpetrators of the restaurant shootings, also died during the raid after detonating an explosive vest. Eight suspected militants were arrested at or near the flat.
On 23 November, an explosive belt was found in a litter bin in the Paris suburb of Montrouge. It may have been discarded by Salah Abdeslam, whose phone records showed that he was in Montrouge on the night of the attacks.
On 24 November, five people in Belgium had been charged on suspicion of their involvement in the Paris attacks, and Belgian prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for Mohamed Abrini, a 30-year-old suspected accomplice of Salah Abdeslam. Abrini was subsequently reported to have been arrested on 8 April 2016. He is also suspected of having been involved in the 2016 Brussels bombings.
On 9 December, two ISIL militants accompanying two of the Paris attackers into Europe, all masquerading as migrants, were arrested in Greece weeks before the attacks. In July 2016, a third militant involved was also arrested despite regular activity on Facebook from Belgium. The three militants were part of a unit intended to carry out further attacks on 13 November, but their plans were apparently disrupted by the first two arrests.
An accomplice made phone calls to Birmingham, England, just prior to the day of the attacks.
Fabien Clain was identified as the person reading the ISIL claim of responsibility. Clain is a French national who served 5 years from 2009 to 2014 in a French prison for recruiting fighters to go to Syria for jihad. Clain has been linked to other executed and planned terror attacks and is seen as a leader of known terrorists.
Analysis of tactics
Michael Leiter, former director of the United States National Counterterrorism Center, said the attacks demonstrated a sophistication not seen in a city attack since the 2008 Mumbai attacks and that it would change how the West regards the threat. Further comparisons were made between the Paris attacks and the Mumbai attacks.Mumbai Police Joint Commissioner (Law and Order) Deven Bharti pointed out the similarities as having several targets, shooting indiscriminately, and the use of improvised explosive devices. According to Bharti, one key difference was that while the Mumbai attacks lasted several days; the Paris attackers committed suicide as soon as capture seemed imminent. Evidence points to the attackers having regularly used unencrypted communications during the planning of the attack.
* Some victims had multiple citizenships. Counts are based on preliminary data and may not be complete.
The attackers killed 130 victims and injured between 352 and 368, with 80 to 99 taken to hospital in serious condition. Of the dead, 89 died at the Bataclan theatre, 19 at La Belle Équipe, 15 at Le Carillon and Le Petit Cambodge, 5 at Café Bonne Bière and La Casa Nostra, and 1 at Stade de France. Victims were confirmed from at least 26 countries (some holding multiple citizenships). Among those who died at the Bataclan were a music critic of Les Inrockuptibles, an executive of Mercury Records France, and the merchandise manager of Eagles of Death Metal, the band that was performing. Some people suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The hashtag#portesouvertes ("open doors") was used by Parisians to offer shelter to those afraid to travel home after the attacks.
As had been the case in January after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, the Place de la République became a focal point of mourning, memorial, and tributes. An impromptu memorial also developed near the Bataclan theatre. On 15 November, two days after the attacks, a memorial service was held at Notre Dame Cathedral, presided over by the Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, with several political and religious figures in attendance.
Muslim organisations in France, such as the Union of Islamic Organisations of France, strongly condemned the attacks in Paris. The attacks affected business at high-profile venues and shopping centres in Paris, and many Parisians were concerned the attacks might lead to a marginalisation of Muslims in the city. There was not the same call for solidarity with Islam, as in January, following the attacks. Sales of the French flag, which the French had rarely displayed prior to the attacks, increased dramatically after the attacks.
On 4 December, the Bonne Bière café reopened, adorned by a banner with the defiant slogan "Je suis en terrasse" ("I'm on the Terrace"). A street cleaner told France 24 that the city had removed six truckloads of wilted flowers and several kilograms of candles from memorials placed around this and the other shooting scenes: "We didn't really want to get rid of things, but it feels a bit like a cemetery with all the flowers."
President Hollande issued a statement asking the French people to remain strong in the face of the attacks. He also visited the Bataclan theatre and vowed to "mercilessly" fight against terrorism. Hollande chaired an emergency meeting of the French Cabinet that night and directed his national security council to meet the next morning. The authorities urged the residents of Paris to stay indoors for their own safety and declared a state of emergency. Hollande cancelled his trip to the 2015 G-20 Antalya summit because of the attacks, instead sending Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and Finance Minister Michel Sapin as his representatives. On 14 November, Hollande announced three days of national mourning. On 17 November, Hollande convened a special Congress of the French Parliament to address the attack and lay out legislative and diplomatic plans he wanted to take in response to them. These proposals included an extension of the state of emergency for three months, changes to the French constitution, one of which would enable France to protect itself from dual citizens who might pose a risk, and an increase in military attacks against ISIL.
On 4 December 2015, the French government published a guide in form of a cartoon on how to survive a terrorist attack. The guide is to be posted in public places and be available online.
On 15 November, the French Air Force launched the biggest airstrike of Opération Chammal, its bombing campaign against ISIL, sending 10 aircraft to drop 20 bombs on Raqqa, the city where ISIL is based. On 16 November, the French Air Force carried out more airstrikes on ISIL targets in Raqqa, including a command centre and a training camp. On 18 November 2015, French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle left its home port of Toulon heading towards the eastern Mediterranean to support bombing operations carried out by the international coalition. This decision was taken before the November attacks but was accelerated by the events.
Applications to join the French Army, which were around 100–150 per day in 2014, rose to 1,500 in the week following the attacks, higher than the rise to 400 after the Charlie Hebdo shooting in January.
On 18 November, Hollande reaffirmed France's commitment to accept 30,000 Syrian refugees over the next two years. This was despite the doubts that the terror attack had sown in people's minds. His announcement drew a standing ovation from a gathering of French mayors.
However, in the election campaign for the regional elections of France, to begin on 6 December 2015, Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right Front National party who is vying to be president of the Nord-Pas de Calais area, was recommending hardline security measures. She was getting a great deal of media attention with her strong anti-immigrant stance and may have been helping to sway public opinion across France. "The influx of migrants must be stopped," Le Pen told the CBC in an interview. Le Pen was doing well in opinion polls as of early December 2015. Since the elections would start only weeks after the Paris attacks, she was thought to be getting dividends from the timing, when the fear of terrorism was still very strong.
Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, rejected calls to rethink the European Union's policy on migration. Dismissing suggestions that open borders led to the attacks, Juncker said he believed that the attacks should be met with a stronger display of liberal values, including internal open borders. European Commission Vice-President Federica Mogherini and EU defence ministers unanimously backed France's request for help in military missions.
The United Kingdom has stated its intent to help France with operations in Syria, while some countries intend to aid France by taking over activities in Africa. Germany announced sending troops to Mali and military trainers to Kurdish forces in Iraq, and has on 4 December voted in favour of deploying aircraft and a frigate in an effort to aid the French forces over Syria.
The attacks prompted European officials to re-evaluate their stance on EU policy toward migrants, especially in light of the ongoing European migrant crisis. Many German officials believed a higher level of scrutiny was needed, and criticised German Chancellor Angela Merkel, while the German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel defended her.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said that he would meet with EU ministers to discuss how to deal with terrorism across the European Union. Meeting reports indicated that Schengen area border controls have been tightened for EU citizens entering or leaving, with passport checks and systematic screening against biometric databases.
Poland's European affairs minister designate Konrad Szymański declared that he saw no possibility of enacting the recent EU refugee relocation scheme. The new Prime Minister of Poland, Beata Szydlo said she would ask the EU to change its decision on refugee quotas. Szydlo said Poland would honour the commitment made by the previous government to accommodate 9,000 refugees.
Hungary's prime minister, Viktor Orbán, rejected the concept of mandatory resettlement quotas.
One source said the French National Police met with German police and intelligence services a month before the attack to discuss suspicions that terrorists were staking out possible targets in France. The exact targets were not known at that time.
Police in Germany stopped a car on 5 November, arrested its driver, and confiscated weapons that may have been connected to the Paris attacks.
Some of the attackers were known to law enforcement officials prior to the attacks, and at least some of the attackers had residences in the Molenbeek area of Brussels, which is noted for its links to extremist activities. A counter-terrorism expert said the fact that the perpetrators were known to authorities suggests that intelligence was "pretty good" but the ability to act on it was lacking. The number of Europeans who have links to Syria makes it difficult for security services to keep track of them all.
On 26 December 2015, "Belgian newspaper De Morgen reported that a police oversight body, known as Committee P," is investigating why prior warnings from a school about the radicalisation of one of the attackers, Bilal Hadfi, were not reported to Belgian law enforcement.
All state schools and universities in Paris remained closed the next day. Sports events in France for the weekend of 14–15 November were postponed or cancelled.Disneyland Paris, which had operated every day since opening in 1992, closed its parks as a mark of respect for those who died in the attacks. The Eiffel Tower, a Paris landmark visited by 20,000 people a day, was closed for two days. Other venues that were to remain closed included shops and cinemas. Protests were banned until 19 November, while bands such as U2, Foo Fighters, Motörhead, and Coldplay cancelled performances in Paris.
The week after 20 November, Hollande was planning to travel to the US and Russia to discuss greater international co-operation against ISIL.
Belgium immediately on 13 November tightened security along its border with France and increased security checks for people arriving from France.
Starting on 21 November 2015, the government of Belgium imposed a security lockdown on Brussels, including the closure of shops, schools, public transportation, due to information about potential terrorist attacks in the wake of the series of coordinated attacks in Paris. One of the perpetrators of the attack, Belgian-born French national Salah Abdeslam, was thought to be hiding in the city. As a result of warnings of a serious and imminent threat, the terror alert level was raised to the highest level (four) across the Brussels metropolitan area, and people were advised not to congregate publicly, effectively putting the city under lockdown.
Syrian president Bashar al-Assad condemned the terror attacks in Paris, but added that France's support for Syrian rebel groups had contributed to the spread of terrorism. France had been a particularly vocal opponent of Assad during the Syrian civil war.
On 15 March 2016, Belgian police carried out a raid on a house in the suburb of Forest in Brussels. A police statement said that the raid was related to the Paris attacks. Four police officers were wounded in the raid, and a manhunt for escaped suspects followed.
On 18 March 2016, there were further raids in the Molenbeek area of Brussels. Two suspects were reportedly injured in one such raid and a third suspect was killed. Five people, one identified as Salah Abdeslam, suspected accomplice in the Paris attacks, were arrested during the raid.
^ abcdeThese times were officially given at a press conference by the prosecutor of Paris François Molins on 14 November 2015. However, video recordings of the match suggest that the gap between the first and the second explosion was much shorter because the first explosion is heard at 16:24 after the start of the match, and the second time at 19:34.
^Dalton, Matthew; Varela, Thomas; Landauro, Inti (14 November 2015). "Paris Attacks Were an 'Act of War' by Islamic State, French President François Hollande Says". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 14 November 2015. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks on a social media account, but didn't provide specific information that would allow the claim to be verified. It said that the attacks were retaliation for French airstrikes against the group in Syria and Iraq.
^ abcMcDonnell, Patrick J; Zavis, Alexandra (19 November 2015). "Suspected Paris attack mastermind's Europe ties facilitated travel from Syria". Los Angeles Times, in the Sacramento Bee. Los Angeles, USA. Retrieved 20 November 2015. As waves of refugees from Syria converged on Europe this summer, law enforcement authorities feared this scenario: That terrorist operatives would slip in among the multitudes [...] Last week's attacks on France may have validated some of those fears. At least three of the seven known attackers and the suspected ringleader, Abdelhamid Abaaoud [...] are thought to have crossed clandestinely from Syria into Europe.
^Love, Brian; Labbe, Chine (17 November 2015). Callus, Andrew; King, Larry, eds. "Factbox – Dead killers, hunted suspects after Paris attacks". Reuters. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. Retrieved 17 November 2015. list of some of the seven attackers who died [...] Ismail Omar Mostefai, 29 (born Nov. 21, 1985), Frenchman of Algerian descent involved in Bataclan concert hall attack [...] Samy Amimour, 28 (born Oct. 15, 1987), involved in Bataclan attack. French, from Drancy, Saint Denis, north of Paris [...] Brahim Abdeslam, 31 (born July 30, 1984),[...] French, resident of Belgium. Blew himself up at Comptoir Voltaire café in Paris. [...] Bilal Hadfi, 20 (born Jan 22, 1995). Involved in Stade de France attack. [...] Suicide bomber involved in Stade de France attack. Passport found beside dead body of kamikaze bomber carries name of Ahmad Al Mohammad, 25, (born Sept. 10 1990), from Idlib, northwest Syria.