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bataclan attack

Members of a police intervention unit walk near the Bataclan concert hall in central Paris. More than 100 people were killed in a mass hostage-taking at a Paris concert hall and many more were feared dead in a series of bombings and shootings, as France declared a national state of emergency.Florian David/AFP / Getty Images

Sirens wailed late into the night in the 11th arrondissement on Friday when my Paris neighbourhood, known for its hipsters and bobos, was suddenly turned into a battlefront.

More than 120 people were reported to have been killed at and around the Bataclan, a concert venue popular with young people a few streets away from where I live. A reporter for Libération daily who was attending the heavy-metal concert there described the scene as "a nightmare." French President François Hollande said it was "une horreur."

The last concert I saw at the Bataclan was Grand Corps Malade (which means Tall Sick Body), who is a French poet and performer who turned slam into a high art form after a diving accident left him handicapped. Using a cane to find his balance on stage, this modern-day minstrel recited a poem whose title could translate as "It Could Work Out." It was an ode to France's multicultural society, to the immigrants and working people who populate the country's banlieues or suburbs, a heart-warming message of hope and confidence so seldom heard here that many in the audience wept.

On Friday night, there were tears of another variety at the Bataclan.

Before French security forces launched their assault on the club, crowded with hostages, the nearby streets were lined with ambulances. Traffic, usually heavy on Friday nights when revellers go bar-hopping on nearby streets like Oberkampf and Saint-Maur, seemed to vanish as news of the Bataclan shooting spread and police cordoned off the area.

Mr. Hollande announced that he had declared a state of emergency and closed the country's borders to make sure that alleged killers would not leave the country.

The shooting at the Bataclan, where Quebec bands like Beau Dommage have performed, started virtually at the same time as reported attacks on a nearby Cambodian restaurant and explosions near the Stade de France in the suburban city of Saint-Denis, where France was playing Germany in a soccer game attended by Mr. Hollande.

The Islamic State armed group has often threatened France, but the country seemed somehow immune from those jihadists, somehow out of their reach. It was an illusion, of course, especially since French fighters are known to have travelled to Iraq and Syria by the hundreds. Of course, Paris was targeted when extremists attacked Charlie Hebdo magazine in January – again in my 11th arrondissement – and a kosher supermarket further east. But those attacks were carried out by French citizens who did not claim responsibility for the Islamic State.

Coming only days before the Paris visit of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, and two weeks before the long-awaited COP21 summit on global warming just outside Paris, the shootings are certain to raise security issues and many questions in a country whose borders cannot be sealed without major consequences.

The attacks were condemned before they were over by many in the international community. President Barack Obama went on television even before Mr. Hollande did. And a stream of messages that I received from friends and family – from Canada and from even further away – expressing shock and solidarity, reminded me that the 11h arrondissement is firmly ensconced in the globalized village.

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