World mourns, shows solidarity, tightens security after Paris attacks

French flag

The French flag, Tricolore. [Quinn Dombrowski/Flickr]

World leaders responded to deadly attacks in Paris with defiant pledges of solidarity and Europe tightened security after Islamic State said it was behind an assault by gunmen and bombers that left 127 dead in the French capital.

Monuments across the world, from the Sydney Opera House in Australia to One World Trade Center in New York, have been adorned with France’s blue, white and red colours, while the French national anthem was being sung in unlikely places.

Among politicians, there were loud calls for the world to ratchet up the fight against terrorism. Bouquets, candles and messages of condolence were laid at French embassies worldwide.

From Barack Obama to Vladimir Putin and across Europe and the Middle East, leaders expressed their condolences to French President Francois Hollande who said the attacks amounted to an act of war against France.

After the worst bloodshed in France since the end of World War Two, European neighbours including Britain, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany and Italy increased security. France temporarily imposed border controls.

>>Read: Islamists kill more than 120 in multiple Paris attacks

British Prime Minister David Cameron used French to express his solidarity after calling Hollande. London monuments including the London Eye and Tower Bridge were lit up in the red, white and blue of the French tricolour.

“Shocked, but resolute. In sorrow, but unbowed. My message to the French people is simple: Nous sommes solidaires avec vous. Nous sommes tous ensemble. We stand with you. United,” Cameron said.

The deadliest attack on Europe since the 2004 Madrid bombings laid bare Islamic State’s capability to strike at the heart of Europe and the difficulty of monitoring the movements of militants intent on killing.

It also triggered a debate on Europe’s refugee policies and the failures of Western policy in Syria.

“This is an attack not just on Paris, it’s an attack not just on the people of France, but this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values that we share,” Obama said.

New York, Boston and other cities in the United States bolstered security, but law enforcement officials said the beefed-up police presence was precautionary rather than a response to any specific threats.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel echoed Obama, saying “our free life is stronger than terror.”

Western security sources said the attack on Paris was one of the “nightmare” scenarios for police forces: several well planned attacks with advanced weaponry on unarmed civilian revellers across a densely populated capital.

Islamic State militants said the attack was designed “to teach France, and all nations following its path, that they will remain at the top of Islamic State’s list of targets”.

Hollande said the attack was planned outside France but carried out with internal help.

Western security sources said the porous nature of Europe’s internal borders – hailed as one of the major achievements of European integration – also allowed freer movement of advanced weaponry and potential attackers, including those who have travelled to Syria, across Europe.

Europe at war with Islamic State

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the Netherlands would tighten security at its borders and airports, and said the Dutch were “at war” with Islamic State.

Belgium imposed additional frontier controls on road, rail and air arrivals from France and Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel asked Belgians on Saturday not to travel to Paris unless necessary.

“Border control is absolutely critical,” said Anthony Glees, director of the Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies at the University of Buckingham.

“They can reinstate border controls so they know who is in their country, they know who leaves their country and they know where they’ve been if they leave their country.”

European Union leaders said that such attacks could not divide Europe.

But in a sign of potential divisions ahead, Poland’s European affairs minister designate said after the attacks in Paris, Warsaw would not be able to accept migrants under European Union quotas.

>>Read: Poland won’t relocate migrants after Paris attacks

In September, Poland backed a European Union plan to share out 120,000 refugees, many of them fleeing the war in Syria, across the 28-nation bloc.

The attacks have also sparked a debate in Germany on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s refugee policy and how to get a better overview of the people entering the country. 

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