Global condemnation, security alert trail Paris terror attacks


Countries worldwide have beefed up security following Friday’s multiple attacks in Paris that killed at least 129 people and drew strong condemnations from the international community.

According to the Chinese Embassy in Paris, there have been no reports of casualties of Chinese nationals so far.

About seven well-coordinated shootings and bombings rocked central Paris Friday night, one of which turned into a hostage taking at the Bataclan theatre and concert hall where hundreds of people were attending a rock concert.

At least two explosions were heard near the national stadium Stade de France where a France-Germany friendly soccer match was being played, attended by French President Francois Hollande.

Investigators said at least eight attackers were dead, with seven of them having blown themselves up.

Hollande, who has cancelled his trip to Turkey for the upcoming G20 summit, chaired a defence meeting Saturday morning after the deadly attacks have shaken the country’s security policy ahead of a high-profile international climate conference scheduled for the end of this month.

Hollande declared late Friday night a state of emergency across France, saying “unprecedented terrorist attacks are ongoing in Paris.”

The French presidential office clarified early Saturday that the country has restored border controls but has not closed borders.

The French Foreign Ministry said airports and train stations will be open, and services will be assured.

The Chinese embassy in Paris issued a security alert late Friday, asking Chinese nationals in France to stay indoors and pay close attention to police information and local media reports about the incidents.

The embassy also urged the Chinese to follow police instructions in case of a security or identity check.

Belgium said Saturday it has boosted checks on its borders, especially on its border with France, following the Paris attacks.

The country also urged increased vigilance for big events over the weekend but said it was not necessary to increase the alert level.

Senior United Kingdom officials have described how they are working “flat out” to prevent terrorists plotting to attack Britain.

The attacks on France saw Prime Minister David Cameron chair a meeting of the government’s emergency committee Cobra, as police warned they are involved in scores of live terrorism investigations, including those where jihadists are feared to be plotting mass casualty attacks.

Scotland Yard commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said on Saturday that investigators in the UK were scrambling to stop attacks here. “The UK government recognised the increased threat in the summer of 2014 and raised the threat level to a point where an attack is considered to be highly likely.

“Police and security agencies have been working flat out since then to protect the public. They are currently working on hundreds of active investigations and making, on average, an arrest a day.”

He added: “The scale of the attacks (in Paris) and the range of weaponry used by the terrorists are a serious cause for concern.

Cameron warned on Saturday that Britain faced the same scale of threat as France. “In light of last night’s attacks, we will of course review our plans and make sure we learn any appropriate lessons. It is clear that the threat from ISIS is evolving. Last night’s attacks suggest a new degree of planning and coordination and a greater ambition for mass casualty attacks.

“We must recognise that however strong we are, however much we prepare, we in the UK face the same threat,” he said.

US President Barack Obama on Friday condemned the Paris terror attacks, calling them an “outrageous attempt to terrorize innocent civilians” and pledging his government’s assistance to France.

“This is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values we share,” Obama said in a statement delivered in the White House Briefing Room. “We stand prepared and ready to provide whatever assistance the people of France need to respond.”

Obama added, “This is a heartbreaking situation, and obviously those of us here in the United States know what it’s like and we’ve gone through these kinds of episodes ourselves.”

Meanwhile, several U.S. cities including New York, Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles bolstered security on Friday night, but law enforcement officials said the increased police presence was precautionary rather than a response to any specific threats.

The New York Police Department (NYPD) said officers from its Counterterrorism Response Command and other special units were deployed in areas frequented by tourists, and at the French Consulate in Manhattan.

“Teams have been dispatched to crowded areas around the city out of an abundance of caution to provide police presence and public reassurance as we follow the developing situation overseas,” the NYPD said in a statement.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said police were on heightened alert at all of the agency’s bridges, tunnels and rail facilities, as well as at the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan. It said it was increasing patrols and checking of bags, buses and trains.

Los Angeles Police Department said it had enhanced forces at critical infrastructure sites and will add more officers to patrol at large public gatherings.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday night that he has spoken to members of his national security team to ensure the safety of Canadians in the wake of the Paris attacks.

“We will keep people apprised as more unfolds but I have been speaking with our national security team to ensure that everything is being done to keep people safe,” he said.

Singapore on Saturday raised its security alert level and stepped up security measures, border checks and vigilance.

“Together, everyone plays a part to keep Singapore safe and secure. We encourage everyone to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activities or persons to the authorities,” Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said in a statement.