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TERRORISM

Champs Elysées terror shooting sees shoppers, diners and tourists flee in panic

Thursday evening's terrorist attack on the famous Champs Elysées took place at time when the famous boulevard and surrounding streets were packed with shoppers, diners and tourists.

Champs Elysées terror shooting sees shoppers, diners and tourists flee in panic
Photo: AFP

A gunman opened fire on police on the Champs Elysées on Thursday night leaving one officer dead and two others seriously injured.

In the panic that followed the rattle of gunfire on Paris's famed Champs Elysees on Thursday, tourists and locals dashed for their lives, took refuge where they could and hoped the bullets wouldn't find them.

“People were running, bumping into each other and crashing into tables”, said a 39-year-old woman who had been dining in a restaurant off the boulevard bustling with visitors.

Hundreds of shoppers, diners and tourists enjoying the attractions and restaurants in the area around the world's most famous shopping boulevard were caught up in the panic that followed.

Nobody understood what was happening, “especially the foreign tourists,” said the woman who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“The waiters told us to get out the back of the restaurant, but there was no exit so we had to hide in a back courtyard,” she said, as the lights of dozens of emergency vehicles flashed.

Isabel, a 34-year-old Australian tourist, was unable to reach her lodging because of the police lines.

“I just want to go home,” she said.

Tomas, a 34-year-old office worker told The Local: “I was in an office in front of where it happened and I heard an automatic weapon, at least that's what I figured.

“The sound was very quick and very loud. I figured it was an auto or a semi-automatic weapon – maybe a Kalashnikov. 

“I thought immediately that it was an attack. We were locked in the office and we learned it was indeed a policeman that was targeted. I saw another policeman through the window who was shooting a weapon with a laser on top.

“We were on the fifth floor so we were not scared because we have a code at the entrance. But we had to wait a long time – and some people were a bit scared because it was so close. My colleagues were not so much afraid in general, there was more of a feeling of “oh no, not again.”

“I heard shots and I went to see what it was. I saw two bodies on the ground and people screaming, running everywhere,” said Mehdi, a communications consultant. “I was afraid. I left. I didn't even pay the bill!”

READ ALSO: French police officer killed in terrorist shooting on Champs Elysées


People run away after the shooting. Photo: AFP

Poonam, a reader of The Local, was near the scene with her three-year-old son. 
 
“We heard the gun shots and we were so, so terrified. I have never seen my son so scared and full of panic and fear,” she said, adding they were locked in the toilets until police led them to safety. 
 
“We live here and have seen this happen on the TV but never did I imagine to be in front of it all and on top of it all with my little boy who will now have this awful memory of these bastards who don't give a care in the world who they hurt or kill.”

Another witness, who was not named, told BFM TV he saw a man get out of a car holding a Kalashnikov.

“When he opened fire we ran into the shop and ran upstairs. We looked out of the window and saw police officers shoot him dead on the street,” he said.

A shopkeeper on the avenue told the TV channel: “At first we thought it was firecrackers but then we realized it was a shooting and everyone ran in panic. People were crying,” one shopkeeper told BFM TV. 

“The area was cleared really quickly.”

A man named Cyril, aged 40, told Le Parisien newspaper: “I was at the corner of Marks & Spencer and Zara waiting in my car. I saw a man all dressed in black about 10 meters from a police car. He looked like he was about to ask for information then he pulled out a Kalashnikov and opened fire.”

Cyril immediately got out of the area in his car, but said it was clear the man intended to target the police.

Maxime, 32, told the newspaper that he was in the cinema at the time and the film was stopped so the audience could be told what had happened.

“They said we could stay in the cinema but after half an hour people preferred to leave and left via a side exit,” he said.

A Vietnamese man named Tran told The Local: “We were in a restaurant just off the Champs Elysées and we were told by the owner we couldn't go out. There was a terror attack, they said. There were police everywhere.
 
“We were locked inside because police confirmed the attack. We were not scared because we were upstairs and not in the street. After an hour an a half we came down in a group with police and were taken to safety.”
 

 

TERRORISM

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks

US Vice President Kamala Harris and French Prime Minister Jean Castex laid wreaths at a Paris cafe and France's national football stadium Saturday six years since deadly terror attacks that left 130 people dead.

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks
US Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff lay flowers after ceremonies at Le Carillon bar and Le Petit Cambodge restaurant, at which 130 people were killed during the 2015 Paris terror attacks. Photo: Sarahbeth Maney/POOL/AFP

The attacks by three separate teams of Islamic State group jihadists on the night of November 13, 2015 were the worst in France since World War II.

Gunmen mowed down 129 people in front of cafes and at a concert hall in the capital, while a bus driver was killed after suicide bombers blew themselves up at the gates of the stadium in its suburbs.

Harris, wrapping up a four-day trip to France, placed a bouquet of white flowers in front of a plaque honouring the victims outside a Paris cafe.

Castex attended a minute of silence at the Stade de France football stadium, along with Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, before laying wreaths at the sites of the other attacks inside Paris.

In front of the Bataclan concert hall, survivors and relatives of the victims listened to someone read out the names of each of the 90 people killed during a concert there six years ago.

Public commemorations of the tragedy were called off last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Last year we weren’t allowed to come and we all found it really tough,” said Bruno Poncet, who made it out alive of the Bataclan.

But he said the start of a trial over the attacks in September meant that those attending the commemoration this year felt more united.

‘Overcome it all’

“We’ve really bonded thanks to the trial,” he said. “During previous commemorations, we’d spot each other from afar without really daring to speak to each other. We were really shy. But standing up in court has really changed everything.”

The marathon trial, the biggest in France’s modern legal history, is expected to last until May 2022.

Twenty defendants are facing sentences of up to life in prison, including the sole attacker who was not gunned down by police, Salah Abdeslam, a French-Moroccan national who was captured in Brussels. Six of the defendants are being tried in absentia.

Poncet said he felt it was crucial that he attend the hearings. “I can’t possibly not. It’s our lives that are being discussed in that room, and it’s important to come to support the others and to try to overcome it all.”

Survivors have taken to the witness stand to recount the horror of the attacks, but also to describe life afterwards.

Several said they had been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, grappling with survivor’s guilt, or even feeling alienated from the rest of society.

Saturday’s commemorations are to wrap up with a minute of silence at the Stade de France in the evening before the kick-off for a game between France and Kazakhstan.

It was during a football match between France and Germany that three suicide bombers blew themselves up in 2015.

Then-French president Francois Hollande was one of the 80,000 people in the crowd, before he was discreetly whisked away to avoid triggering mass panic.

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