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At Least 100 Reported Dead Inside Concert Hall In Paris


There are reports coming from French police that at least a hundred people have been killed inside a Paris concert hall. They had been taken hostage, and police stormed the hall and engaged in a gun battle. The siege is over, but the scene is being described as gruesome. Joining me now is Phil Ewing, NPR's national security editor. And Phil, this is 1 of 3 sites where there were attacks today. Tell us what we know in Paris right now.

PHIL EWING, BYLINE: Yeah, that's right. It's been an evening of chaos in Paris. There are these reports from AFP and AP, the wire services, that some 100 people may have been killed at this concert venue when terrorists broke into a rock concert that was taking place there. There are at least three of these other venues we know about where terrorists may have attacked with assault weapons this evening. We don't know the total number of people killed, but it's been a very bad night in Paris with a major terrorist attack, the biggest in Europe, possibly ever.

CORNISH: Right, I mean, just for some context, if people think back to the attacks in January, a series of five in and around Paris, I think something like 17 people were killed. And that was including the perpetrators. Right now it's really not clear what those numbers could be.

EWING: That's correct, and we also don't know whether or not the situation is over. There's a lot of reports that there are gunmen in Paris, loose, either fleeing these scenes to try to attack again or with weapons attacking people just as they can. We know that this hostage situation is over according reports, but we don't know whether the wider terrorist attack has concluded yet.

CORNISH: What, if any, indication is there about who might be responsible? Often with these kinds of attacks, there are people who at least claim responsibility, right? That's what we've seen in the last few years.

EWING: Yeah, that's right. There's been some early indications from websites and social media accounts connected with Islamist extremist groups that they're celebrating these attacks. So they're rejoicing that it's taking place, but no claims that we know about right now of responsibility. Law enforcement and counterterrorism officials that we're hearing from are saying it's pretty clearly a terrorist attack, but they also say it's way too early to know exactly who may be responsible.

CORNISH: And there's such a galaxy of potential groups, right? I mean we learned that again with the attacks earlier this year.

EWING: Yeah, that's correct. So France is part of the coalition led by the U.S. that's fighting the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. But it doesn't necessarily mean that ISIS is responsible. It could be an al-Qaeda affiliate or core al-Qaeda or some other group that we don't know about yet. So it's still very early days in this attack, and that's going to be the next job for French and American and other law enforcement officials to try and find out who did this.

CORNISH: Another bit of news we know is that the French president, Francois Hollande, has declared a national emergency. he's also imposed some border restrictions. And he apparently has cancelled his plans to go to the G-20 meeting in Turkey. And this meeting is supposed to have at least some focus - right? - on the issue of terrorism and security. Talk about that.

EWING: Correct. In fact, President Obama of the United States is supposed to travel there soon for a meeting of the G-20 economic club. They're talking about economic issues, but there was supposed to be a dinner with these world leaders, including President Hollande, at which terrorism and ISIS was going to be a focus. Hollande's not going to go, the French government has said. And that'll raise some questions in Washington and in other capitals around the world about whether those world leaders are going to make this trip as well.

CORNISH: But we don't have any indication of that just yet.

EWING: Not yet.

CORNISH: In the meantime, what do we know about, I guess, the security forces or what France has sort of called up in response to this?

EWING: Well, it's been a huge deployment in Paris according to the media reports we're seeing. There's a lot of indelegable - indelible, I should say, images this evening from The New York Times, on TV networks. The Eiffel Tower had its light powered off. It stood black as a memorial to the victims, and there's a lot of surreal, eerie Facebook notifications that people around the world are getting because Facebook is letting people check in if they were in the affected area in Paris to say whether they're safe or not. So there's a lot of people getting messages on their phones saying, yes, this friend has checked in. And a lot of people are going to be watching to see those in Paris who they know - whether or not they actually check in to see if they were safe.

CORNISH: That's Phil Ewing, NPR's national security editor. Phil, thanks so much.

EWING: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Phil Ewing