'France is at war,' says Hollande; calls on US, Russia to join global coalition to destroy Islamic State

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for Friday's coordinated attacks, saying they were in retaliation for France's involvement in US-backed air strikes in Iraq and Syria.

Reuters| Last Updated: Nov 17, 2015, 10:24 AM IST
'France is at war,' says Hollande; calls on US, Russia to join global coalition to destroy Islamic State

Paris: French President Francois Hollande called on the United States and Russia to join a global coalition to destroy Islamic State in the wake of the attacks across Paris, and announced a wave of measures to combat terror in France.

"France is at war," Hollande told a joint session of Parliament at the Palace of Versailles, promising to increase funds for national security and strengthen anti-terror laws in response to the suicide bombings and shootings that killed 129.

"We're not engaged in a war of civilisations, because these assassins do not represent any. We are in a war against jihadist terrorism which is threatening the whole world," he told a packed, sombre chamber.

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Parliamentarians gave Hollande a standing ovation before spontaneously singing the "Marseillaise" national anthem in a show of political unity following the worst atrocity France has seen since World War Two.

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for Friday's coordinated attacks, saying they were in retaliation for France's involvement in US-backed air strikes in Iraq and Syria.

Hollande pledged that French fighter jets would intensify their assaults and said he would meet US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin in the coming days to urge them to pool their resources.

"We must combine our forces to achieve a result that is already too late in coming," the President said.

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The US-led coalition has been bombing Islamic State for more than a year. Russia joined the conflict in September, but Western officials say it has mainly hit foreign-backed fighters battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, not Islamic State.

Speaking in Turkey at the same time as Hollande, Obama called Friday's attacks a "terrible and sickening setback", but maintained that the US-led coalition was making progress.

"Even as we grieve with our French friends ... we can't lose sight that there has been progress," Obama said at a Group of 20 summit, ruling out sending in ground troops.

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US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Paris late on Monday to pay respects to those killed in the attacks and stress Washington's support for the toughened French stance. He is due to meet Hollande on Tuesday morning.

Much of France came to a standstill at midday for a minute's silence to remember the dead, many of whom were young people killed as they enjoyed a night out. Metro trains stopped, pedestrians paused on pavements and office workers stood at their desks.

But in a sign of life slowly returning to normal, schools and museums re-opened after a 48-hour shutdown, as did the Eiffel Tower, which lit up the night sky in the red, white and blue colours of the French flag following two days of darkness.