As the French authorities are trying to piece together the set of events that brought about the deadliest terrorist act on home soil, Friday night’s survivors are recalling the details of horrific attacks that claimed the lives of over 150 people in Paris.
The worst carnage during Paris’ Friday 13 shooting spree took place at a concert hall that was hosting an American rock band. Hundreds of people were held hostage for several hours before the attackers detonated explosive belts. At least 120 people died as special forces stormed the building, killing at least three attackers.
After the dust settled, witnesses who are being questioned by the police, told French publications that the motive behind the theater attack is extremist retaliation against French involvement in the Middle East and Africa.
“It is the fault of Hollande, he did not have to intervene in Syria!” was the message of one of the attackers at the Bataclan venue, according to witness testimony gathered by AFP. According to Pierre Janaszak, 35, the audience in the theater at first didn’t realize what has been happening, as they thought the armed intrusion was part of the show.
“It was perhaps an hour until the concert of Eagles of Death Metal began, we heard gunfire downstairs in the den. At first we thought it was part of the show,” Janaszak says, mentioning he saw at least three attackers.
After bursting into the concert hall at around 10pm local time, the assailants began shooting, causing panic, which allowed many people to flee before the attackers took the venue hostage. According to witness reports the assailants were hooded. They did not communicate with each other and kept on firing into the crowd at random.
“They were armed with big guns, I guess with the Kalashnikov…They kept shooting. There was blood everywhere, bodies everywhere. We hear screaming, everyone tried to flee. People trampled. It was hell,” Janaszak says.
“We saw fire brigades, ambulance cars, police units, including national police forces arriving here,” Antoine, one of the witnesses living close to Bataclan, recalled.
“We heard grenade explosions, and many people showing signs of panic,” he told RT’s video agency Ruptly. Antoine described the atmosphere as psychotic, with people screaming after the explosions.
Amélie, 35, recalled her ordeal to 20 Minutes as the gunfight erupted.
“We were at the Bataclan, it was 9:45 pm. Suddenly we heard gunshots, we went back, we thought it was firecrackers, in the end it was guys who were shooting in all directions,” she noted.
A young Turk, Fahmi B., visiting Paris for the first time, told the Liberation of how he saw people being shot.
“At the time I thought it was part of the show, and then I turned and saw a person who had taken a bullet in the eye. She stood up and collapsed. Shooters shot randomly at people lying on the ground. Everyone was dead but it made no difference to them. I was lying in a fetal position, but my feet were blocked by someone’s body. I managed to drag my feet out of my shoes and ran backstage,” Fahmi B said.
“People were screaming as if they were being tortured. Until the last moment we had the impression that the terrorists were behind the door,” another witness told 20 Minutes. “We have just seen a scene of horror: bullets in the head, blood everywhere, dead people everywhere. One has the impression that this is not reality, it’s a nightmare.”
Another man, Nicolas, was injured in the arm by a ricocheted bullet at Bataclan.
“I heard the shooting and people screaming, that’s all, I didn’t really see much. I was among those who managed to get away very, very fast,” he told RT’s video agency Ruptly. Luckily, there was a door not far from the stage. When outside, Nicolas recalls hearing a “powerful” detonation.
Nicolas Thomas, also present during the hostage takeover, told the Liberation Daily, that the gunmen also attacked people who were having drinks at the bar in the concert hall.
“They shot everyone who was at the bar. Then we saw a movement in the pit. It was like a gust of wind in the field. Everyone fell, dead, wounded and alive. Even if you have no experience of war, we immediately understood what was happening,” Nicolas said. He and his friend managed to get to safety on the roof, where they were joined by about fifty people. “We waited two hours on the roof, we felt trapped like rats, there was shooting everywhere,” he recalled.
Some reports also suggested one of the gunmen at Bataclan reportedly shouted “It’s for Syria” in Arabic.
Janaszak, who managed to survive by hiding in one of the lavatories, recalls hearing the gunmen talking French politics to a group of hostages.
“I heard the attackers speak with twenty hostage, about the French intervention in Syria in Iraq….[before] we heard shooting when the police intervened.”