World News – French President Francois Hollande vowed a “merciless” response to the deadliest attacks on the country’s soil since World War II as ISIS claimed responsibility Saturday for a coordinated assault on Paris.
A state of emergency was declared and France deployed 1,500 troops after a near-simultaneous series of explosions and shootings brought the city to a horrified standstill overnight. The death toll rose to 127 and 200 other people were wounded, officials said.
French police were hunting possible accomplices of eight assailants, who attacked concert-goers, cafe diners and soccer fans in at least six locations in the French capital. Authorities said that seven attackers blew themselves up, while the eighth was killed by police.
The State Department confirmed that the wounded included Americans.
Speaking early Saturday, Hollande pointed the finger at ISIS for orchestrating the “cowardly” attacks which he described as an “act of war committed by a terrorist army” and organized from abroad. He said France remained “unbreakable,” calling for “unity and courage.”
Hollande added: “We will work alongside our allies to fight this terrorist menace … France is strong and even if she is wounded she will get up always and nothing will hold her down, even if we are feeling the grief now … We will defend ourselves.”
Earlier, Hollande vowed to be “merciless” with the nation’s foes.
A statement issued by ISIS later claimed responsibility for the attacks, according to global security firm and NBC News analyst Flashpoint Intelligence. ISIS has previously threatened France due to its military operations against the group in Syria and Iraq.
A French official close to the investigation confirmed to NBC News that a Syrian passport was found on one of the attacker’s bodies.
The violence came less than a year after deadly attacks on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket drove home the threat of Islamist terrorism here.
“This time it’s war,” pronounced Saturday’s front page of Le Parisien newspaper. “War in the middle of Paris” echoed Le Figaro.
All museums, schools and libraries in Paris were ordered closed Saturday as investigators searched for clues following the bloodshed. The Eiffel Tower, Louvre museum and nearby Disneyland theme park were also shut.
The Bataclan concert hall in the lively 11th arrondissement was the scene of the night’s worst carnage. Dozens of people there, according to the AP, when gunmen opened fire during a sell-out concert by American band Eagles of Death Metal.
The attackers held hundreds of people hostage before blowing themselves up. Footage obtained by Le Monde showed concert-goers hanging from venue’s third-floor windows while others ran for their lives out a rear exit.
French police stormed the venue after midnight, rushing wounded to waiting ambulances as sirens wailed.
Sylvain, a 38-year-old concert-goer, collapsed in tears as he recounted the attack to the AP.
“There were shots everywhere, in waves. I lay down on the floor. I saw at least two shooters, but I heard others talk. They cried, ‘It’s Hollande’s fault.’ I heard one of the shooters shout, ‘Allahu Akbar’ [‘God is greatest’],” he said, speaking on condition that his full name not be used out of concern for his safety.
Several neighborhood bars were transformed into trauma units to treat and receive survivors.
Maurice Mellul, 24, came to lay flowers outside the Bataclan on Saturday morning.
“I’m very sad,” he told NBC News. “I have a lot of rage and hatred. We need to continue our lives, we can’t stay inside. We must continue, despite tragic events, we must continue our lives to fight this.”
The siege of the concert hall came around the same time that three suicide bombers targeted spots near the national soccer stadium as the France played an exhibition game against Germany.
Karl Olive, the mayor of Poissy, was among thousands of spectators at the Stade de France watching the game. He told NBC News he heard an explosion — “it didn’t sound like a firecracker, it sounded like a bomb” — but the match continued.
Hollande was also attending the game but was rushed away to deal with the situation. Fans later sang the country’s national anthem as they filed out of the stadium.
Meanwhile, gunmen opened fire on diners at a string of cafes in a trendy neighborhood, which were crowded on an unusually balmy November night.
French officials shut down the subway and ordered people to remain indoors as the events unfolded, beginning just before 9:30 p.m. local time (3:30 p.m. ET).
However, residents were out in the streets as normal on Saturday.
Parisians offered shelter to anyone caught up in or stranded in the chaos, setting Twitter alight with the hashtag #porteouverte — or “open door.” Americans echoed the charity with #StrandedInUS.
President Barack Obama said the violence was an attack on “all of humanity” while Secretary of Defense Ash Carter called it an “assault on our common human dignity.”
While federal and local officials said there was no credible or specific intelligence about threats to the U.S., law enforcement agencies were on alert and deployed extra patrols following the Paris attacks.
The attacks Friday hit a nation still reeling from January’s three-day terror spree that left 20 people dead — including three attackers, who opened fire at the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine and later laid siege on a kosher supermarket.
Bataclan — the nightclub central to Friday’s carnage — is situated not far from Charle Hebdo’s offices.
France has seen several smaller-scale attacks or attempts this year, including an incident on a high-speed train in August in which American travelers thwarted an attempted attack by a heavily armed man.
French authorities are particularly concerned about the threat from hundreds of French Islamist radicals who have traveled to Syria and returned home with skills to stage violence.
by CASSANDRA VINOGRAD, NANCY ING and JASON CUMMING, NBCNews.com