PARIS: French police have identified the first of seven gunmen who killed at least 129 people in a wave of carnage claimed by the Islamic State group, as international investigators stepped up their probes into Paris’s worst ever attacks.
French authorities Saturday named the first attacker as 29-year-old Omar Ismail Mostefai, who was identified from a severed finger found at Bataclan concert hall, scene of the worst of the bloodshed.
IS jihadists said they were behind the gun and suicide attacks that left a trail of destruction at a sold-out concert hall, at restaurants and bars, and outside France’s Stade de France national stadium.
President Francois Hollande called the coordinated assault on Friday night an “act of war” as the capital’s normally bustling streets fell eerily quiet, 10 months after attacks on magazine Charlie Hebdo shocked the nation.
Meanwhile the investigation widened across Europe, with Belgian police arresting several suspects and German authorities probing a possible link to a man recently found with a car of explosives.
The discovery of a Syrian passport near the body of one attacker has raised suspicions some of the assailants might have entered Europe as part of an influx of people fleeing Syria’s civil war.
“We confirm that the (Syrian) passport holder came through the Greek island of Leros on October 3, where he was registered under EU rules,” said the Greek minister for citizen protection, Nikos Toskas.
The attacks sent shockwaves around the world, with London’s Tower Bridge, Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate and the World Trade Center in New York among the many landmarks lit up in the red, white and blue of the French national flag in a show of solidarity.
US President Barack Obama described the onslaught as “an attack on all of humanity” and an emotional Pope Francis said he was “shaken” by the “inhuman” attacks.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said the attacks “suggest a new degree of planning and coordination and a greater ambition for mass casualty attacks”.