Nearly 200, perhaps more, were killed tonight as part of attacks by admitted ISIS operatives at at least 7 locations throughout Paris as part of what French President Francois Hollande – who was swiftly evacuated to a safe location — said was an “unprecedented” coordinated terrorist attack that involved bombings and shootings which wounded just as many in the French capital.
According to authorities, at least 11 jihadists — eight of whom appear to have been suicide bombers — were involved in each of the widespread attacks across Paris in a well organized and executed attack which there apparently was no advance warning identified by Western intelligence agencies, although some sources said there had been concerns based on intelligence to be extra vigilent.
Agnès Thibault-Lecuivre, a spokesperson for the Paris prosecutor, said 8 jihadists were killed in the attacks, 7 of whom were suicide bombers.
ISIS published its claim of responsibility via the Al Hayat Media Center. In its statement, the jihadist group said the attacks were designed to show France it remained a "top target.”
Counterterrorism officials told Homeland Security Today Friday night it doesn’t really matter who claims responsibility because "jihad is jihad, no matter how you cut it," as one of the officials stated.
ISIS claimed it studied the target locations and carried out the attack using "eight brothers wearing explosive belts and carrying assault rifles,” one of whom has been identified as a French national on a terrorist watch list.
Intelligence authorities said the ISIS jihadists had received training in Syria before traveling to France to establish "a self-contained terror cell," and were tied to ISIS members in Brussels, where security forces there have made arrests related to the attacks in Paris.
According to the US Department of Justice Friday night, there were no official threats on its radar screens — that the Paris attacks took US intelligence officials by complete surprise.
US and Western counterterrorism officials told Homeland Security Today Friday night they believed — based on communications intercepts — that the “jihadi” attackers were indeed ISIS operatives, and, perhaps, also involved operatives of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Intelligence authorities are still working to absolutely confirm that ISIS was behind the attacks, but said they have little doubt the coordinated attacks were organized by ISIS as ISIS has claimed. The officials further stated the attacks may have been designed to draw Paris law enforcement and first responders away from the initial points of attack as part of a plan to attack another location, perhaps the office of Hollande.
One of the officials told Homeland Security Today Friday night from Washington, DC that“the attackers are no doubt jihadists” with ties “to at least ISIS – that’s what our intelligence is indicating … this is a large and widespread terrorist attack" that was "extraordinarily well executed."
Hostages inside the Bataclan arts center in Paris — where explosions and gunfire were heard — reputedly were "methodologically" executed "one by one" by ISIS jihadi gunmen, according to official sources which included law enforcement.
Some of the attackers reportedly yelled, “Allahu Akbar,” meaning, "God is greater," or "God is [the] greatest,” as well as, “this is for [the liberation of] Syria.”
On social media, ISIS followers created Twitter hashtags prior to the attacks praising that “Paris [is] in flames,” and declaring “ISIS is attacking Paris," a seemingly clear indication that the attack was well coordinated in advance and and had sophisticated logistical support.
Another ISIS propagandist tweeted, “O crusaders we are coming to you with bombs and rifles … Wait for us.”
“The infidels were happy in the liberating of Sinjar at the morning, and at night they slap themselves for Paris,” said another tweet in Arabic.
“Allah Akbar, the horror arrived to the forts of the Cross #Paris,” said another tweet, adding, “ISIS should claim responsibility for the operation to show the world that Muslims have heavy feet.”
At 4:48 PM Friday afternoon, @TurMedia316 tweeted, “O crusaders we are coming to you with bombs and rifles. Wait for us.”
@ev8_ho tweeted at 4:36 PM, “The West used to live quietly and set fire in the Muslim lands with war, but after the emergence of the caliphate [ISIS] the game has changed. #Franceisonfire #Paris.”
With known and suspected ISIS and Al Qaeda affiliated jihadists known to be in America, US intelligence, Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials have issued orders to increase their respective security status at facilities across the nation, according to officials Homeland Security Today was told on background Friday night.
Indeed, DHS sources said unspecified emergency protocols have been ordered nationwide as department intelligence officials monitor the ongoing events in Paris and elsewhere around the world in conjunction with the CIA, Director of National Intelligence, National Security Council, fusions centers and other appropriate intelligence entities.
"We cannot assume that something like this isn’t planned against" America. "We’ve warned all along that an attack on US soil like this is only a matter of time, probably targeting place where there are mass public gatherings, like shopping malls, sports events, and the like … it’s just a matter of time, I’m telling you," an intelligence source disturbingly stated last night.
The FBI and US intelligence officials have confirmed that there are at least 1,000 active investigations of ISIS members and jihadist sympathizers inside the United States. Dozens of law enforcement officials disclosed in a letter to President Obama they are concerned about the release of hardened jihadists from GITMO.
In reality, US intelligence authorities admit that they do not know precisely how many dedicated Islamist jihadists are operation in America, noting that jihadists are known to have been entering and exiting the US for many years, as Homeland Security Today first detailed in its report, Unholy Trinity.
Meanwhile, Homeland Security Today has also reported that in keeping his pledge to empty out GITMO, Obama has released hardened Al Qaeda and other jihadists the Pentagon deemed "High Risk" and expected to re-engage in jihad against the West and America in particular.
In response to the siege on Paris, Hollande declared a state of emergency and ordered all France’s borders be closed and declared a nationwide state of emergency and curfew.
”The curfew in Paris tonight is the first of its kind since World War II," officials said.
Meanwhile, Paris authorities have asked people to stay indoors, public demonstrations banned until Thursday and curfews put in place. The Eiffel Tower has been closed indefinitely.
Hollande said Friday night French borders had been closed, subways closed and a wide security perimeter established in and around Paris and surrounding communities as further attacks reportedly have occurred in areas outside and around Paris. The order puts France’s military in control until Hollande lifts the state of emergency.
According to Western intelligence officials, the coordinated attack in Paris "is likely to be a turning point in the Wests’ operations against ISIS in Syria and Iraq."
"This is a tipping point, make no doubt about it," the source said."
US and Western counterterrorism officials acknowledged that they are asking questions about why Western intelligence collection capabilities didn’t pick up indications of the attack in Paris, saying it is an indication ISIS and other jihadi organizations have "obviously" been able to establish a "sophisticated" communications infrastructure that neither the US nor Western intelligence have been able to infiltrate, "least of all glean indications of."
"We are clearly dealing with a sophisticated terrorist infrastructure which appears to be getting secure communications assistance," one of the sources conceded, adding, "this would tend to indicate — to me, at least — that there could be some sort of state support … which raises the stakes considerably if that is proven true."
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson issued the following statement tonight:
"As the President noted this evening, the attacks tonight in Paris are not just attacks on the people of France, but attacks on all of humanity and the universal values we share," he said Friday night.
Johnson said, "The Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are closely monitoring events in Paris and we are in contact with our counterparts in the region. At this time, we know of no specific or credible threats of an attack on the US homeland of the type that occurred in Paris tonight."
"As we do regularly, and out of an abundance of caution, DHS and the FBI are consulting with state and local law enforcement. We are also in communication with relevant private sector organizations to advise them of what we know, and to hear from them about security precautions they may take. Americans should mourn the loss of all those killed in Paris tonight, and we stand together with the French people in the fight against terrorism and extremism."
House Committee on Homeland Security Chairman McCaul (R-Texas) said tonight, “My prayers are with the victims of these heinous terror attacks and their families. We stand firmly alongside our French allies as they root out the perpetrators of this despicable violence and bring them to justice. While we must always remain vigilant, there are no known, credible threats to the homeland at this time.”
Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), a member of the House Homeland Security, added that that, “I join President Obama and the rest of the world in sending thoughts and prayers to those affected by what appears to be a coordinated terrorist attack in Paris, France."
“We don’t yet know how many lives have been lost in these tragic circumstances. But we do know that we will stand with our allies in France as they seek justice for the devastation experienced," Coleman said, adding, "Today’s events are a reminder that we must all remain vigilant, and continue to oppose anyone that threatens freedom with violence or intimidation.”
Meanwhile in the UK, Prime Minister David Cameron said his nation also faces an increasing and evolving threat with greater ambition, but that the UK will not be raising its threat level (it’s currently at "severe," which means an attack is likely). Cameron said he is confident that following a mock scenario by security and emergency services in London this summer — which was based on a similar rolling attack to what happened in Paris — that the British capital is prepared for an attack.
Britain is currently undecided as to whether or not to join the air strikes in Syria. Events in Paris could push a decision, however.
Managing Editor Kylie Bull contributed to this report from London.