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France in shock after Islamist attacks

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France in shock after Islamist attacks
Phuket Gazette / Reuters

PHUKET: French prosecutors said on Saturday that three coordinated teams of gunmen and suicide bombers carried out a wave of attacks across Paris that killed 129 people in what President Francois Hollande called an “act of war” by Islamic State.

Hollande declared a state of emergency, ordering police and troops into the streets, and set three days of official mourning as a stunned nation sought to comprehend the simultaneous assault on restaurants, a concert hall and the national soccer stadium on a busy Friday evening.

As a cross-border investigation gathered pace, prosecutors said the slaughter – claimed by Islamic State as revenge for French military action in Syria and Iraq – appeared to involve a multinational team with links to the Middle East, Belgium and possibly Germany as well as home-grown French roots.

Ominously, Greek officials said one and perhaps two of the assailants had passed through Greece from Turkey alongside Syrian refugees fleeing violence in their homeland.

In coordination with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies, U.S. Justice Department attorneys are working with French authorities to obtain further information that may be relevant to the Paris attacks, a Justice Department official said on Saturday.

The worst carnage was unleashed as three gunmen systematically killed at least 89 people at a rock concert by an American band at the Bataclan theatre before detonating explosive belts as anti-terrorist commandos launched an assault, officials said.

Some 40 more people were killed in five other attacks in the Paris region, including a double suicide bombing outside the Stade de France stadium, where Hollande and the German foreign minister were watching a soccer international. By Saturday night, 99 people were still in critical condition.

The bloodshed came as France, a founder member of the U.S.-led coalition waging air strikes against Islamic State, was already on high alert for terrorist attacks, raising questions about how such a complex conspiracy could go undetected.

It was the worst such attack in Europe since the Madrid train bombings of 2004, in which Islamists killed 191 people.

ARRESTS IN BELGIUM

Hollande said the attacks had been organised from abroad by Islamic State, with internal help.

Three people were arrested in Belgium as part of an anti-terrorism probe centred on a Belgian hired car found near the site of one of the Paris attacks, Belgian prosecutors said. It was one of two vehicles used in a string of attacks in central Paris within the space of less than an hour.

Sources close to the inquiry said one of the dead gunmen was French with ties to Islamist militants and had been under surveillance by the security services. French media said the man’s brother and father had been were arrested on Saturday

A man arrested in Germany’s southern state of Bavaria this month after guns and explosives were found in his car may also be linked to the Paris attacks, Bavaria’s state premier said.

The holder of a Syrian passport found near the body of one of the suicide bombers outside the soccer stadium passed though the Greek island of Leros in October, a Greek minister said.

A Greek police source said the man had arrived in Leros with 69 refugees, where he was registered and had his fingerprints taken. Police declined to give his name. A Greek government source later said that a second suspected Paris attacker was also very likely to have passed through Greece.

If confirmed, the infiltration of militants into the flow of refugees to carry out attacks in Europe could have far-reaching political consequences.

The attacks fuelled a debate raging in Europe about how to handle the influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and other migrants propelled by civil war in Syria, Iraq and Libya.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the European Commission have been pressing EU partners to ease Berlin’s burden by taking in quotas of refugees.

However, in a sign of potential divisions ahead, Poland said that the attacks meant it could not now take its share of migrants under the European Union relocation plan.

ATTACKS LINKED TO SYRIA

The carnage on the streets of the French capital followed recent attacks claimed by Islamic State: the apparent downing of a Russian passenger plane in Egypt, where 224 people died, and bombings in Lebanon in which 43 died. Turkey has also pointed the finger at Islamic State over a bomb attack on a rally in Ankara last month in which more than 100 people were killed. All the attacks were linked to the war in Syria.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls said France had no intention of halting its air strikes. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan urged world leaders gathered for a summit in Turkey starting on Sunday to prioritise the fight against terrorism, saying the Paris attacks showed the time for words was now over.

Hollande pulled out of the G20 summit after declaring the first nationwide state of emergency since 1961. France will be represented by its foreign and finance ministers.

“Faced with war, the country must take appropriate action,” the president said in a solemn address after meeting security chiefs.

“France will be merciless towards these barbarians from Daesh,” Hollande said, using an Arab acronym for Islamic State.

Flags flew at half-mast and cinemas, theatres and other places of entertainment were closed, although schools and universities will reopen as normal on Monday.

With the capital on edge, armed police rushed to a luxury hotel near the Eiffel Tower on Saturday evening, evacuated the building, sealed off a wide perimeter and closed nearby metro stations, only to say it had been a false alarm.

Speaking after peace talks on Syria in Vienna, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said: “We are witnessing a kind of medieval and modern fascism at the same time”.

In its claim of responsibility, Islamic State said the attacks were a response to France’s military campaign.

It also distributed an undated video in which a bearded militant warned in Arabic: “As long as you keep bombing, you will not live in peace. You will even fear travelling to the market.”

SEARCHING FOR THE MISSING

Updating the casualty toll, the Paris prosecutor said 129 people had been killed and 352 wounded, of whom 99 remained critical. Six attackers blew themselves up and one was shot by police. There may have been an eighth attacker, but this was not confirmed.

The dead included one U.S. citizen, one Swede, one Briton, two Belgians, two Romanians and two Mexicans, their governments said.

Nohemi Gonzalez, 23, a junior at California State University, Long Beach, who was studying design in France was among those killed in the attacks, school officials said on Saturday.

Nick Alexander, a member of the entourage of California-based rock band Eagles of Death Metal, was identified in a statement from his family as one of at least 89 people who died when gunmen stormed the Bataclan music hall in the midst of Friday night’s show.

Relatives and friends scoured Paris hospitals in search of people missing since Friday evening and believed to have gone to the Bataclan concert hall. Some anguished next of kin said their relatives were neither on the confirmed death toll nor among the wounded registered in hospitals.

Sylvestre, a young man who was at the Stade de France when bombs went off there, said he had been saved by his cellphone, which he was holding to his ear when a metal bolt hit it.

Hollande temporarily reimposed border controls as part of the state of emergency to stop perpetrators escaping or new attackers entering the country.

Local sports events in Paris were suspended, stores closed, the rock band U2 cancelled a concert, and schools, universities and municipal buildings stayed shut.

Emergency services were mobilised, police leave was cancelled, 1,500 army reinforcements were drafted into the Paris region and hospitals recalled staff to cope with casualties.

However, France said a global climate change summit in Paris at the end of the month would go ahead, amid heightened security.

France has been on high alert since Islamist gunmen attacked the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket in January, killing 18 people.

Those attacks briefly united France in defence of freedom of speech, with a mass demonstration of more than a million people. But that unity has since broken down, with far-right populist Marine Le Pen gaining on both mainstream parties by blaming France’s security problems on immigration and Islam.

World leaders responded to the attacks in Paris with defiant pledges of solidarity. From Barack Obama to Vladimir Putin and across Europe and the Middle East, leaders offered their condolences.

France ordered increased security at its missions abroad. Britain, Germany, Italy, Russia, Belgium, Hungary and the Netherlands all tightened security measures.

British police said the evacuation of London’s Gatwick Airport on Saturday was connected to the discovery of a possible firearm in a bin, and that a 41-year-old man from France had been arrested.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

World

Sir Sean Connery dies at 90 years of age

The Thaiger

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Sir Sean Connery dies at 90 years of age | The Thaiger

Sir Sean Connery has died at the age of 90. The Scottish actor was best known for his portrayal of British spy 007 “Bond… James Bond”, doing his first Bond movie in 1962 in “Dr. No”. According to his son, Jason Connery, he died peacefully in his sleep in the Bahamas.

He was knighted by the Queen at Holyrood Palace in 2000. He also received the Kennedy Centre Honour, and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. Scottish newspaper The Sunday Herald called him “The Greatest Living Scot” while People Magazine didn’t just vote him “Sexiest Man Alive” in 1989 but “Sexiest Man of the Century” a decade later.

He was the first to bring the role of James Bond to the big screen , appearing in 7 of the Bond franchise films, and the first of 7 actors that have played the role. Sir Sean was often voted the best actor to have played 007 in the long-running franchise in many polls.

His acting career spanned 5 decades and he eventually won an Oscar in 1988 playing an Irish cop in “The Untouchables”.

Sir Sean’s other films included The Hunt for Red October, Highlander (a Thaiger favourite), Entrapment, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and The Rock.

Jason Connery said many of his family were with him and around when he died peacefully in his sleep.

“We are all working at understanding this huge event as it only happened so recently, even though my dad has been unwell for some time.”

“A sad day for all who knew and loved my dad and a sad loss for all people around the world who enjoyed the wonderful gift he had as an actor.”

Sir Sean was also a long-time supporter of Scottish independence, saying in interviews in the run-up to the 2014 referendum that he might return from his Bahamas home to live in Scotland if it voted to break away from the rest of the UK.

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Weather

This year’s most powerful typhoon will hit Philippines tomorrow

The Thaiger

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This year’s most powerful typhoon will hit Philippines tomorrow | The Thaiger

Typhoon Goni continues to bear down on The Philippines in one of the South China Sea’s busiest storm years. 220,000 people have now been evacuated as of today.The typhoon, packing “destructive winds’, is expected to reach the south-east of the Philippine’s main island of Luzon tomorrow morning with the eye of the storm passing over during Sunday afternoon. Forecasters are expecting wind speeds of over 200 kilometres per hour.

Typhoon Goni is known locally as “Rolly”.

A warning has been issued “moderate to high risk” of storm surges up to 3 metres high along the east coast over the next 2 days.

On Wednesday this week Typhoon Molave smashed into Vietnam’s central coast, killing up to 35 people and flooding low-lying villages and then dropping heavy rain on southern Laos and Central Thailand. Molave killed 20 people as it passed over The Philippines.
This year's most powerful typhoon will hit Philippines tomorrow | News by The Thaiger
GRAPHIC: Typhoon Goni will reach Philippine’s island of Luzon tomorrow.

Schools are being used as emergency shelters as well as government-co-ordinated evacuation centres and gymnasiums. Authorities are ramping up preparations in the Bicol region southeast of Philippine capital Manila, readying rescue vehicles, emergency response teams and relief goods ahead of the storm.

The Philippines averages around 20 storms and typhoons every year, wiping out harvests, infrastructure and homes. The deadliest storm on record for The Philippines was Typhoon Haiyan, which dumped huge wave surges on the central city of Tacloban killing over 7,300 people in 2013.

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Economy

Dow and S&P 500 take a breath after an ugly week, tech stocks lead the way down

The Thaiger

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Dow and S&P 500 take a breath after an ugly week, tech stocks lead the way down | The Thaiger

US stocks closed lower yesterday to end an ugly week downbeat with ‘uncertainty’ remaining the overwhelming sentiment. Tech stocks led the march downwards. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped in its biggest monthly collapse since March with investors reacting to rising Covid-19 cases in the US and Europe, peppered by nervousness ahead of next Tuesday’s US presidential election. The increased volatility forced all three major indexes seeing their biggest weekly declines since the worst of the coronavirus-inspired selloff 8 months ago.

The Dow fell around 157 points, to end near 26,502, according to preliminary figures, while the S&P 500 lost around 40 points, or 1.2%, to finish near 3,270. The Nasdaq Composite gave up around 274 points, or 2.4%, closing near 10,912. The Dow had a 6.5% weekly fall and a 4.6% monthly drop. Friday’s decline saw the Nasdaq negative for the month of October, falling 2.3%. The Nasdaq was down 5.5% for the week.

The Dow dropped more than 500 points at its session low with tech stocks – primarily Apple, Amazon, Alphabet and Facebook – leading the market decline.

A number of stocks were on the move, down, following a slew of earnings, including from the tech giants. Twitter sank more than 20% on slowing growth, while Exxon reported its 3rd straight quarter of losses.

Key moments yesterday…

  • Dow closed down 0.59% for its 5th negative day out of 6
  • S&P 500 closed down 1.21% for its 4th negative day in 5
  • Dow closed down 6.47% this week for its worst week since March 20
  • S&P closed down 5.64% this week for its worst week since March 20 when the S&P lost 14.98%
  • S&P closed down 2.77% this month for its second-straight negative month
  • Nasdaq closed down 5.51% this week for its worst week since March 20 when the Nasdaq lost 12.64%

Dow and S&P 500 take a breath after an ugly week, tech stocks lead the way down | News by The Thaiger

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