Candles and flowers are seen in Place de la Republique in tribute to the victims of the recent terrorist attack in Paris on November 14, 2015. The city was hit by a series of coordinated attacks that claimed at least 120 lives. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks. Photo by David Silpa/UPI | License Photo
PARIS, Nov. 14 (UPI) -- Belgium's justice minister announced several arrests near the country's capital city in connection to the coordinated Islamic State attacks on Paris that left scores of people dead.
Police searched three homes in Molenbeek-Saint-Jean, located outside Brussels, on Saturday after a car rented in Belgium was located at one of the attack sites in Paris. Sources told CNN one of the raids was connected to the Paris attacks and the others to people known to Belgium intelligence.
In total, five people were detained, local media reported. Justice ministry spokeswoman Sieghild Lacoere said the vehicle "triggered the raids." Belgian Justice Minister Koen Geens said "multiple searches and arrests" had been made related to a vehicle with a Belgian license plate.
Paris prosecutor Francois Molins updated the victim information, raising the death toll to 129. Another 352 were injured, at least 99 seriously. An American design student, 23-year-old Nohemi Gonzalez, was among those killed, the L.A. Times reported. Gonzalez was one of 18 international exchange students from California State University Long Beach studying in Paris.
The Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility for the attacks in the French capital, saying IS "soldiers" targeted the "capital of prostitution and obscenity" and warned it was "the first of the storm."
The remarks came in a statement published in Arabic, English and French on social media, according to the Jihadist watchdog organization SITE Intelligence Group. The statement was released on the same Telegram channel used to claim responsibility for the Russian jet crash over the Sinai peninsula two weeks ago, that left 224 people dead.
According to a translation by SITE Intel, the IS said "eight brothers wrapped in explosive belts and armed with machine rifles, targeted sites that were accurately chosen in the heart of the capital of France, including the Stade de France during the match between the Crusader German and French teams, where the fool of France, Francois Hollande, was present."
Early Saturday, Hollande said the near-simultaneous attacks that left at least 127 dead was an "act of war" organized abroad by the IS and vowed to wage a "merciless" fight against the militant organization.
Hollande put France's security at its highest level with the military continuing to patrol France's streets to give residents a sense of security. Parisians were encouraged to stay home. Hollande declared a three-day period of national mourning.
Authorities believed the eight people who carried out the attacks were dead, but are wary of accomplices still on the run. All city facilities, buildings and subways will remain closed through Saturday. The borders will also remain closed.
Hollande said the attacks that left dozens injured were "committed by a terrorist army, the Islamic State group, a jihadist army, against France, against the values that we defend everywhere in the world, against what we are: A free country that means something to the whole planet."
"France will be pitiless concerning the barbarity of Daesh," he said, using an Arabic acronym for the militants, also known as IS, ISIS or ISIL. He did not detail what intelligence was gathered that connected the IS to the attacks.
Saturday morning, the White House said President Obama will convene the National Security Council to review the latest intelligence surrounding the attacks before departing for the G20 Summit in Turkey.
About 300 people injured in the blasts remain in Paris-area hospitals, with at least 80 in critical condition. The U.S. State Department confirmed Americans are among the injured.
"The United States Embassy in Paris is working round the clock to assist American citizens affected by this tragedy," Mark Toner, the deputy spokesman for the State Department, said in a statement. "The U.S. government is working closely with French authorities to identify American victims. We are aware there are Americans among the injured, and are offering them the full range of consular assistance."
At the same time, French police continued their search for possible accomplices to the eight people who carried out the attacks. Seven of the attackers died in suicide bombings and one died in a shootout with police at the Bataclan concert hall, where gunmen shot and killed concert-goers one by one. Extremists triggered explosives and fired shots during a performance by the California rock band Eagles of Death Metal. At least 118 died.
Several news organizations are reporting authorities found a Syrian passport at one of the locations, Stade de France. A second bomber has been identified as a French national who was already under intelligence surveillance.
Scores of others died in apparent coordinated attacks:
Stade de France -- At the national soccer stadium where France and Germany were playing an exhibition match, attackers bombed two stadium entrances and a nearby McDonald's restaurant. At least three died. Hollande, who was watching the game, was evacuated from the stadium after the blasts.
La Belle Equipe -- As many as 18 people died at this sidewalk cafe on Rue de Charonne.
Le Carillon and Le Petit Cambodge -- About 14 people died at Le Carillon, a bar, and the nearby Cambodian restaurant Le Petit Cambodge. Many others were gravely wounded.
La Casa Nostra -- Located a few hundred yards from the Bataclan, the terrace of this pizzeria was targeted. At least five people were targeted by attackers with automatic rifles.