French cop tells of terror shootout at Bataclan

Four days after the bloody attack on the Bataclan concert hall in Paris one of the elite police offers on the scene has described in detail the horror of events at the club that night.

French cop tells of terror shootout at Bataclan
Photo: AFP

Of all the horrible attacks in Paris last Friday, the one launched at the Bataclan concert hall was the most brutal, leading to the deaths of 89 people.

Concert goers had gone to the hugely popular music venue to see a gig by the Eagles of Death Metal but events took a terrible turn at around 9.45pm when terrorists described by eyewitnesses as “extremely well organized” stormed into the club.

Shots were fired with many in the crowd believing initially the noise was part of the show.

But it soon became clear the terrorists were intent on a massacre and as the murders began, people fled via the emergency door at the rear of the venue, climbed onto the roof of the venue, or even clung desperately to window ledges in a bid to survive.

Meanwhile, inside the building people hid where they could, including in the toilets.

Around half an hour after the attack began, the first squad of the elite police force used in anti-terror activities forced their way into the Bataclan.

“When we arrived it was all dark,” one of the agents involved told French television station TF1.

“There were dozens of bodies tangled up all over the floor – dead people, the wounded and survivors who were pretending to be dead, fearing we were also terrorists,” said the policeman whose name was not given.

“We told them that we were police, and people everywhere were asking us for help. People were whispering because they were scared the shooting would begin again.

“Our priority was to secure the location. We moved forward. Carefully. Because of all the bodies. We didn’t know if the terrorists were still there, and if they were present, where they might be”.

The agents secured the ground floor of the building and when backup arrived groups of officers combed the building.

“We checked all the rooms, all the corners, one by one. We made the hostages leave. They moved like zombies. They were in a state of shock, it was hard from them to move out,” the officer explained.

At 11.15pm, or an hour and a half after the attacks began, the anti-terrorism squads heard a voice from behind a closed door. It was one of the hostages acting as a spokesperson for the terrorists.

“He yelled out to us that the terrorists were there (with the hostages) and that if the door was opened they would blow everything up.

“But for us, leaving wasn’t an option,” the elite officer told TF1.

A tense period of negotiation followed.

“They didn’t want to free the hostages. They said: ‘Leave or we will decapitate the people we have with us.’ They spoke of Syria, saying they were responding because we had attacked them. They really wanted to speak to the media as well – something we won’t allow.”

Finally, at 12.20am, with medical teams in place, police stormed the room where the terrorists were holding the hostages.

“As soon as the door was open, the terrorists opened fire. It was very violent, very brutal. The shield took 30 Kalashnikov bullets. The hostages screamed, laying on the ground or pushing themselves against the walls,” the officer said of the scene.

It took agents only a few moments to clear hostages from the room. They then lobbed a grenade at the terrorists. One was hit, and fell to the ground. An explosion followed, and the terrorists were pulverized.

Amazingly, no hostages were injured during the assault which lasted just three minutes, although one officer was injured by a ricocheting bullet.

Agents spent the next hour clearing out other hostages from the building finding them in locations ranging from cupboards to air ducts.

Speaking several days after the horrific attack, the officer involved told TFI he “was a little tired”.

“But the equipment is ready again, our weapons are reloaded and we are ready to deploy as necessary.”


Historic trial begins in Paris over November 2015 terror attacks

The biggest trial in France's modern legal history begins on Wednesday over the November 2015 attacks on Paris that saw 130 people killed at bars, restaurants, the Stade de France and the Bataclan concert hall.

Historic trial begins in Paris over November 2015 terror attacks
A memorial to the 130 victims of the November 13th attacks in Paris. Photo: Thomas Coex/AFP

The suicide bombing and gun assault by three teams of jihadists, planned from Syria and later claimed by the Islamic State group, was France’s worst post-war atrocity.

The only surviving attacker, Salah Abdeslam, will be in the dock at the purpose-built facility at the historic court of justice on the Île de la Cité in central Paris, along with 13 other defendants.

Six others are being tried in absentia. Twelve of the 20 people on trial, including Abdeslam, face life sentences if convicted.

“We are entering the unknown,” said Arthur Denouveaux, a survivor of the Bataclan music venue attack and president of Life for Paris, a victims’ association. “We can’t wait for it to start, but we’re asking, How will it be for the next nine months?”

The trial will last until May 2022, with 145 days for hearings involving about 330 lawyers, 300 victims and former president François Hollande, who will testify in November.

The case file runs to a million pages in 542 volumes, measuring 53 metres across.

Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti this week described the trial as “historic” and “one of all superlatives” as he inspected the courtroom.

Surviving gunman Abdeslam, now 31, who was born in Belgium but has French and Moroccan nationality, fled the scene of the carnage after abandoning his suicide belt, which investigators later found to be defective.

He was captured four months later in Brussels, hiding in a building close to his family home.

Abdeslam has resolutely refused to cooperate with the French investigation and remained largely silent throughout a separate trial in Belgium in 2018, where he declared only that he put his “trust in Allah” and that the court was biased.

A major question is whether he will speak at his scheduled testimony, set for mid-January.

Another focus of the trial will be on how the squad of killers managed to enter France undetected, allegedly using the flow of migrants from Islamic State-controlled regions of Syria as cover.

Fourteen of the accused – who face charges ranging from providing logistical support to planning the attacks as well as weapons offences – are expected to be present in court.

They include a Swedish national, Osama Krayem, who Belgian investigators have identified as one of the killers of a Jordanian pilot burned alive in a cage by Isis in early 2015 in Syria. He is also under investigation in Sweden for war crimes.

The alleged coordinator, Belgian national Abdelhamid Abaaoud, was killed by French police northeast of Paris five days after the attacks.

Of the six tried in absentia, five are presumed dead, mainly in air strikes in Syria.

The horror was unleashed late on the night of Friday, November 13th, when jihadists detonated suicide belts outside the Stade de France stadium where Hollande was in the crowd watching France play a football match against Germany. One man was killed there.

A group of Islamist gunmen, including Abdeslam’s brother Brahim, later opened fire from a car on half a dozen restaurants in the trendy 10th and 11th Arrondissements of the capital, which were packed with people on the balmy autumn evening.

The massacre culminated at the Bataclan music venue. Three jihadists stormed in during a performance, killing a total of 90 people.

While the trial’s initial phase will be devoted to procedural issues, testimonies are expected to begin on September 28th from some 300 survivors and relatives of victims for five weeks of harrowing statements.

Security forces will be on high alert.