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TERRORISM

Bataclan terror victims sue French state for not allowing armed soldiers to intervene

A group of survivors and families of victims of the 2015 Paris terrorist attack at the Bataclan concert hall in Paris has filed a lawsuit against the French state over its response during the police operation that night.

Bataclan terror victims sue French state for not allowing armed soldiers to intervene
French vigipirate soldiers mobilize near to the Place de la Bastille in Paris, on November 13, 2015. AFP
The group which includes 17 victims and families of victims wants to know why eight soldiers from the “Sentinelle” anti-terror patrols armed with assault rifles, who were outside the concert hall while the massacre was taking place inside, were told by their superiors not to intervene. 
 
According to La Parisien, police officers present at the time asked the soldiers to lend them their weapons but stuck to army protocol and refused to hand them over.
 
Ninety people died at the Bataclan that night after Islamist terrorists opened fire on the crowd inside. Another 40 people were killed that night in attacks on bars, restaurants and at the Stade de France stadium.
 
While many escaped the Bataclan horror scores were taken hostage or hid inside the music venue until specialist police teams stormed the venue much later in the evening.
 
Families believe the death toll at the Bataclan would have been lower if soldiers had had the right to intervene when the attack was in its early stages.
 
Sebastien Gomet, one of the complainants, who lost his little brother Cedric in the attack told Le Parisien newspaper: “This will not bring my brother back but it's a step towards the truth.
 
“There would not have been the heavy death toll of 90 victims if the soldiers had been able to intervene. I want the French state recognise it is responsible for the scale of the tragedy.”
 
They have lodged a legal complaint against the French state for the act of “not assisting a person in danger” , which is a criminal offence in France.
 
This is not the first time families have tried to shed light on the soldiers' actions.
 
In 2016, another group of victims and their families asked unsuccessfully for an investigation to be opened into why the soldiers were not allowed to give their weapons to the police officers.
 
“Clearly, an order was given to the “Sentinelle” soldiers not to open fire, even while they were there to target the terrorists,” said Georges Fenech, a former magistrate who headed the parliamentary inquiry commission on the attacks, told BFM TV. “We'll never know who gave these orders, but it is unbelievable”. 
 
“The police officer called their superiors and the response they got was: Negative. 'You do not intervene militarily on national soil, we're not in a war zone',” Fenech added.
 
Fenech said the soldiers were under civil authority because thy were on French territory rather than on foreign soil, which meant they were under the command of the prefecture of police and ultimately the Interior Ministry.
 
When he asked an army commander about he response Fenech said he and other MPs were shocked by the response.
 
“The military commander told us 'I do send my soldiers into a bottle of ink', meaning 'I don't know what's going on inside so I cannot put my soldiers in danger,” Fenech said.
 
Thousands of Sentinelle soldiers were sent out to patrol the streets of Paris in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris in January 2015 to guard sensitive sites and reassure the public.
 
Since the Bataclan attacks, Sentinelle soldiers have opened fire during terrorist attacks at the Louvre museum in Paris, at Marseille train station and in Orly airport. 
 
“Things have evolved, protcols have changed, training has changed,” said Fenech. “Unfortunately on November 13th the Sentinelle force did not have the active role that would have expected.
 
“Of course there were failings.We were not ready on November 13th. Who could have imagined such a massacre in the middle of Paris.”
 
 
 

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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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