France 24, December 29, 2015
Chilling details have emerged of the November 13 carnage at Paris nightspots as investigators continue to examine evidence from France’s worst-ever terrorist attacks.
The coordinated shootings and bomb blasts left 130 people dead and hundreds wounded in what President François Hollande described as an “act of war” planned by the Islamic State (IS) group from its base in Syria.
By far the largest loss of life occurred at the Bataclan concert hall, where American rock band Eagles of Death Metal were playing before a crowd of around 1,500 people.
Information from the judicial enquiry leaked to France’s Le Figaro newspaper suggests a deliberate plan to target the band, whose members fled the stage at the start of the shooting.
The three suicide bombers who attacked the concert hall reportedly screamed “Where is the singer? Where are the Yanks?” as they fired their Kalashnikov guns into the audience, killing 89 people.
Referring to French and US military operations against IS militants in Syria, the gunmen told petrified spectators: “You are bombing with the Americans, so we are targeting you and the Americans.”
The attackers “spoke between them in Arabic and to their victims in French”, according to survivors who lay on the ground playing dead in order to escape the bloodbath. They ordered spectators to stand at the doors and windows to use them as “human shields”.
Investigators say the gunmen took mobile phones from their victims to start negotiations with the authorities on the Internet, but could not access the Web. Instead they contacted police on the phone and requested to be put through to a negotiator.
“We can see your lasers, we can hear you at the door,” said one of the gunmen, before requesting an end to French military operations against the IS group: “I want you to leave the country. I want you to withdraw your armies. I want it written down on a piece of paper and signed.”
The three men strapped with explosives warned police not to enter the hall: “Move away from the doors. We have belts. We’ll blow ourselves up if you get closer. We have hostages. We even have a policeman.”
According to survivors, the attackers fired salvos into the crowd, often at random, to cries of “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest). One started playing the xylophone in a macabre stunt, “laughing sarcastically” at the terrified audience.
Of the three attackers, one was shot dead early by an officer arriving at the scene, while the other two died in the final assault two hours later.
Shortly before the Bataclan shootings, a team of three other bombers failed in their attempt to storm the Stade de France stadium north of Paris, where the French national team were playing Germany in a friendly match watched by President François Hollande.
According to information leaked to the Figaro, the three men repeatedly tried to enter the premises before and after the start of the game, but were turned away.
Witnesses said three men “whispering in Arabic” were spotted jumping the queue at one of the stadium entrances minutes before the game’s start. One of the three reportedly tried and failed to get through another gate four times before blowing himself up.
All three eventually detonated their suicide belts outside the stadium, killing themselves and a bystander. Investigators have confirmed that two of the attackers posed as migrants to enter Europe through Greece, using stolen Syrian passports with fake pictures.
Investigators say the third commando of attackers, which targeted several bars in the French capital’s trendy east, fired more than 400 rounds as they gunned down diners and revellers who were enjoying the mild evening.
The gunmen, also believed to be three, fired calmly and methodically into the crowd, killing as many people as they could, including a motorist who got in their way.
It is still not clear whether fugitive Salah Abdeslam, the focus of a Europe-wide manhunt by police, was driving the vehicle. His brother Brahim blew himself after the last of the murderous rampages, reportedly “apologising for the noise made”, Le Figaro said.
A third attacker, identified as alleged ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud, was killed five days later during a police raid on his hideout in Saint-Denis.