French police officials and witnesses have reported an explosion in a bar near a Paris stadium, a shootout outside three Paris restaurants and a hostage situation in a concert hall, leaving at least 40 dead.
Just before midnight local time, French President François Hollande declared a national state of emergency and ordered the borders closed.
According to eyewitness Jim Carroll, 67, who was walking home to his apartment on Rue Bichat at the time of the attack on the restaurants in the 10th arrondissement, there was “a loud explosion” followed by a sound like that of “Chinese fireworks – a long extended spattering that lasted for fifteen seconds.”
“Then there was another explosion and spattering that lasted for a few seconds like the first one,” he added. “Within just a minute there were the sounds of the engines.”
Carroll reported a scene of “chaos.”
Firemen and police immediately barricaded Rue Bichat and all the surrounding streets.
Authorities also evacuated Place de la République and caused a flood of people to cross over the Canal Saint-Martin.
Ambulances are now on the scene.
One of the police officials said there was a separate explosion near the Stade de France north of Paris. It was unclear if the events were linked.
Another police source reported 100 hostages and at least 15 killed in the Bataclan concert hall.
Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to be publicly named.
France has been on edge since deadly attacks by Islamic extremists in January on satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery that left 20 dead, including the three attackers.
One of the restaurants targeted Friday, Le Carillon, is in the same general neighborhood as the Charlie Hebdo offices.
The country has seen several smaller-scale attacks or attempts since, including an incident on a high-speed train in August in which American travellers thwarted a heavily armed Islamic radical trying to attack passengers.
French President François Hollande and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve announced that a crisis cell had been set up.
“The president of the Republic, the prime minister, the interior minister are in a inter-ministerial crisis cell,” the government said in a statement.
US President Barack Obama called the Paris attacks an “outrageous attempt to terrorise civilians and said, “We will work with France to bring terrorists to justice.”
The Paris municipality issued a statement just before midnight local time telling Parisians to stay at home.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)