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Paris Prosecutor: Attacks Occurred At Six Separate Sites In Paris

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

We're going to update you now on what we know about this evening's attacks in Paris with NPR's national security editor Phil Ewing. Welcome to the studio, Phil.

PHIL EWING, BYLINE: Thank you.

CORNISH: All right, so first, let's recap on these estimates of the numbers of people killed. We started earlier in the night hearing that there were three attack sites - right? - this Cambodian restaurant, also this concert hall where there was a hostage situation and explosions outside the national stadium. But I understand that number is higher now.

EWING: Yeah, that's right. The latest reports according to local press are that there could be four more sites. We expect that the death toll will rise. In fact, one of your guests said that earlier on the program, from 100 to as many as 150 according to some reports. We can't confirm that, but that's what the local media is saying. We also understand that some five attackers are dead in gunfire exchanges with police in Paris. And so there's been some result as a, you know - a result of this melee there this evening.

CORNISH: So report five attackers potentially killed in these interactions with the elite French forces.

EWING: That's according to the Associated Press.

CORNISH: Talk about what we're hearing from the U.S. government in terms of its preparation or interaction with the French.

EWING: Well, President Obama said earlier this evening the U.S. government would offer all assistance. And we've heard from the State Department and Defense Department that Secretaries Kerry and Carter would reach out to their French counterparts to offer any assistance they could. We've also heard from the NYPD in New York City and the capital police here in Washington that they're stepping up security patrols just as a prudent precaution. And there' also been lots of symbolic gestures of support inside the United States. In fact, the Empire State Building tonight in New York is lit up with the colors of the French flag.

CORNISH: Right, meanwhile the Eiffel Tower lights are dim there in Paris where there is a state of emergency. You mention those attackers having been killed; the number was five. But has there been any claims of responsibility for this attack? What do we know?

EWING: No, not so far that we can confirm. In fact, we're not even sure that all the attackers in this incident have been killed or brought to justice. It's entirely possible that they could still be at large somewhere in Paris either trying to make their escape or potentially launch other attacks. At this time, we just don't know the situation there.

CORNISH: On top of a state of emergency, you now have President Hollande effectively imposing some very serious restrictions on the borders. Tell us what this attack could mean for the kind of ongoing immigrant crisis. There's been a lot of talk in Europe about sealing or not sealing borders, right?

EWING: Yeah, that's exactly right. This takes place in the context of a huge immigration crisis in Europe. You know, Europe traditionally has had these open borders for many years. People could come and go as they pleased. But since the civil war in Syria, hundreds of thousands of people from there and other countries of the Middle East have been trying to make their way to Europe including through France to the United Kingdom. There's this big camp in Calais on the English Channel where people have been trying to make their way across to Great Britain, and so the political context here is impossible to ignore. There'll be lots of pushes within France and within Europe to tighten borders even more following this terrorist attack.

CORNISH: And this is not the first time I'm hearing the name of Syria tonight. Can you give us some context for what's going on with the French, the government and maybe their interaction with the conflict? Why should that matter? Why should we care?

EWING: Well, the French military has been engaged in the U.S.-led battle against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. This is the self-described Islamic State. French warplanes have attacked ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria, and in fact, the French just recently announced plans to deploy their aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf to continue to join the attacks there. So France is very much engaged in that fight. And although we don't know which terror group could be responsible here, if there's a connection to ISIS or some other Middle Eastern group, that could be one reason why.

CORNISH: And briefly of note, Francois Hollande canceling his plan to visit to the G20 meeting in Turkey. Can you talk about what that meeting was supposed to address?

EWING: That's right. That's a meeting of the big economic groups. The G20 - President Barack Obama is supposed to go along with many other world leaders. We haven't heard yet whether that's still going to take place or whether some of these other leaders are going to cancel their trip, you know, in the wake of this terrible attack in Paris.

CORNISH: That's NPR's national security editor Phil Ewing. We want you to stay with us. This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.