Paris – French President Francois Hollande vowed to attack the Islamic State group without mercy as the jihadist group admitted responsibility Saturday for orchestrating the deadliest attacks inflicted on France since World War II.
Hollande said at least 129 people died Friday night in shootings at Paris cafes, suicide bombings near France’s national stadium and a hostage-taking slaughter inside a concert hall.
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.”
Hollande said France — which is already bombing IS targets in Syria and Iraq as part of the U.S.-led coalition, and has troops fighting militants in Africa — “will be merciless toward the barbarians of Islamic State group.”
Meanwhile, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls echoed Hollande by vowing to “destroy” those behind the rampage across Paris that killed at least 129 people and wounded hundreds of others.
Speaking late Saturday on French television TF1, Valls declared “we are at war, and because we are at war we are taking exceptional measures.”
France has put thousands of soldiers onto the streets to reinforce police and other security personal in the wake of the country’s worst-ever terror attack.
Valls says “we will strike this enemy to destroy him. In France and in Europe, we’ll chase the authors of this act, and also in Syria and Iraq. We will win this war.”
France has been on edge since January, when Islamic extremists attacked the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which had run cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, and a kosher grocery.
Twenty people died in those attacks, including three shooters.
On Friday night they targeted young people enjoying a rock concert and ordinary city residents celebrating the end of the work week and cheering their nation’s soccer squad as it took on the defending World Cup champions.
France has seen several smaller-scale attacks or attempts this year, including on a high-speed train in August when American travelers overpowered a heavily armed man.
French authorities are particularly concerned about the threat from hundreds of French Islamic radicals who have traveled to Syria and returned home with skills to mount attacks.
“The big question on everyone’s mind is: Were these attackers — if they turn out to be connected to one of the groups in Syria — were they homegrown terrorists or were they returning fighters?” said Brian Michael Jenkins, a terrorism expert and senior adviser to the president of the Washington-based RAND Corporation. “That will be a huge question.”