Survivors of the 2015 terror attack on the Bataclan concert hall in Paris have described their fear and panic when they were held hostage in a hallway for more than two hours by two men armed with Kalashnikovs and explosive vests.
Three witnesses, a 23-year-old waiter at the time of the attack and two IT workers who were 30 years old, told the largest criminal trial in French history how they were among the 11 people who were first forced to watch how the Gunmen took pleasure in attacking and shooting concertgoers from a balcony, then leading them into a narrow hallway upstairs and using them as human shields.
A total of 130 people were killed and more than 400 injured in synchronized suicide bombings and mass shootings in the French capital on Friday, November 13, 2015, attacks that were claimed by the Islamic State.
The carnage began around 9 pm when a suicide bomber blew himself up after failing to enter the Stade de France for a soccer match between France and Germany. Then came shootings from vehicles and suicide bombings in cafes and restaurants. Finally, three armed men entered the Bataclan during an Eagles of Death Metal concert, killing 90 people.
On Tuesday, a Paris court heard how dozens of people in the pit in front of the stage at the concert were shot dead while some in the balcony seats tried to hide or escape.
David Fritz-Goeppinger, who has dual Chilean and French nationality, was 23 years old and was at the concert on a rare night off from his job at the bar. His hobby was playing realistic video games and he immediately recognized the sound of gunfire as the attackers broke in, while others thought it was just fireworks. He described a horrific massacre scene when a wave of bystanders fell to the ground “one on top of the other, bullets in the bodies and people dying.”
He remembered trying to escape into an upstairs room and climb through a tall window, hanging dangerously over the street below by grasping a metal pipe in a ventilation vent with one hand and trying to call emergency services with the other.
“I heard a woman inside yelling, ‘I’m pregnant, can I jump out the window?’ It was then that I understood the magnitude of the anguish, ”he said. The woman came out the window where she hung by her fingertips asking for help. A man who had been hanging next to Fritz-Goeppinger managed to get back in and pull the woman out. She fled the room and would survive the attack.
Fritz-Geoppinger described how two armed men broke into the room, saw him, and ordered him to return to the balcony seats. Eleven people, eight men and three women, were forced to sit on the red velvet seats where, “in a surreal scene,” he said, one of the terrorists stood with his foot on the railing “having fun” while shooting at anyone who make the slightest movement in the pile of corpses downstairs.
“We sat helplessly watching the murder of several people, while he enjoyed himself. The gunman then told us: ‘The first person who moves, or doesn’t do what I say, gets shot in the head. Are you clear or do you want an example? Those words will stay in my head forever. “
At this point, said Fritz-Goeppinger, the third gunman, who was on the scene at the scene, was shot by a lone police officer and his suicide vest exploded.
Grégory, an IT worker who was at his birthday concert and was among the hostages on the balcony, recalled thinking, “Okay, today is the day I’m going to die and they are going to kill me. I thought about my apartment and if it was tidy so that my parents wouldn’t have a lot of work to clean it. “
The two remaining gunmen, dressed in sweatpants, had said they were there to exact revenge for then-President François Hollande’s military action against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Quickly, the hostages were moved into a narrow corridor and forced to stand in front of the windows like human shields.
Witnesses told the court that the gunmen appeared stressed and as if they were improvising. At one point, people on the street below and the building across the street were shot out of the window.
The group of 11 were held in the corridor for more than two hours while the armed men were in contact with the police negotiators using the hostages’ mobile phones. Grégory described how one of the gunmen complained that his hearing had been damaged in the attack and kept asking him to describe aloud what he could hear behind the closed door.
“I told him that I could hear the injured people complaining and asking for help,” he said, to which he said the gunman responded, “That is what our women and children live in Syria and Iraq.”
The gunmen tried unsuccessfully to call the television news stations, and shortly after midnight the police launched an assault, shooting one gunman while another blew himself off a ladder. All the hostages survived.
Two of the witnesses told the court that the police leading them out of the building and past the piles of bodies in the concert hall told them not to look. Both men looked. “I realized that the people I had seen dance that night were now corpses,” Fritz-Goeppinger said.
The trial continues and is expected to last until May 2022.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism