1,500 spectators came to attend the Eagles of Death Metal concert at the Bataclan. 90 people will be killed and hundreds will be injured by three jihadists. Story as the trial of the attacks of November 13, 2015 in Paris and Saint-Denis opens on Wednesday September 8.
Three “suicide bombers” around the Stade de France, Parisian terraces under fire from Kalashnikovs and the worst is yet to come. It is 9:47 p.m. when a trio of jihadists extract themselves from a black Polo that has parked in front of the Bataclan performance hall. One of them sends an SMS: “We’re gone, we’re starting. For the 1,500 spectators who came to attend the Eagles of Death Metal concert, it was the start of three hours of hell and a massacre that left 90 dead and hundreds injured.
Suzie Bernard, 18 at the time, offered the place to her boyfriend, a fan of the Californian rock group. “Very happy” to find him, to drink beers with him. “Before everything got out of hand,” she says, “I was really good. “
As soon as they got out of their car, Foued Mohamed Aggad, Samy Amimour and Ismaïl Omar Mostefaï opened fire: their first victims fell on the sidewalk. Then they rush into the packed room. There are groups of friends, couples, siblings, lovers of “metal” who have come alone. “The pit is armored from the armored home,” says Jean-Claude (loan name), who has moved to the left of the bar. The Eagles of Death Metal play “Kiss the devil”, “Embrasse le diable”.
Jean-Claude hears “a first click”. Like most spectators, he thinks of a firecracker. “Then I saw people lying down. I watched, dumbfounded. He also goes to bed. “It lasted a priori 10-12 minutes. But 10-12 minutes with guys shooting you seems like forever. “I see people bending like a wheat field facing the wind,” said another spectator, Thomas Smette, then 24 years old. “I turn around, I see two armed people shooting at anything that moves […] I find myself on the ground with everyone. “
The music stops. The manager turns on the light again. Howls are raised. Some believed in a stage game but the doubt is no longer possible. Thomas Smette hears a jihadist shout “It’s for our brothers in Syria”. He smells “something warm on the ground”. “My hand is red with blood. But with the adrenaline rush, I don’t know if it’s mine or not. The smell of blood and gunpowder filled the room. He hears a spectator shouting, “They’re reloading, you have three seconds.” “” There, I do 10 meters in three steps. Thomas manages to take cover on the roof.
Some hide in false ceilings. Jean-Claude manages to escape through an emergency exit. But hundreds of people remain trapped. The shooting continues, in the room as in the Amelot passage which runs alongside the Bataclan.
Foued Mohamed Aggad and Ismaël Omar Mostefaï go upstairs and, from the balcony, water the room. Spectators play the dead among the corpses. Suzie Bernard is in the pit with her boyfriend. She opens her eyes intermittently. “I see some really awful stuff. The people next to me had been shot in the head ”. There is a crowd movement. “We ran to the stage and fell back. We found ourselves in this agglomeration, a bunch of humans ”.
Just before 10 p.m., a commissioner from the anti-crime brigade (BAC) and his driver arrive. They enter and spot Samy Amimour on stage with a Kalashnikov. Without hesitation, they shoot and kill the jihadist, whose belt explodes. They have arguably saved dozens of lives. But the two police officers must fall back under heavy fire from the two killers upstairs.
The horror, punctuated by the shots, continues. “With my boyfriend, we just said we loved each other. So much so that a guy said to us: “Shut up, you’re making too much noise”. I felt this urgency to say that I loved ”, justifies Suzie. She remembers the phones ringing. “We know that people have died because they did not put their phones on silent. It’s horrible to think that life hangs on something so trivial […] People have left in absolute terror ”.
The commissioner of the BAC recounted his intervention before a parliamentary commission of inquiry in 2016. In the room, it is an “indescribable” vision of “hundreds of bodies […] entangled with each other”. “There was an icy silence […] We could tell that even the living pretended to be dead,” described the policeman. “After a while there was no more movement or shooting. I decided to go look for the victims who were in the pit, a few meters from us ”.
When they searched the room later, investigators discovered a dictaphone that had been recording all evening. The soundtrack made it possible to objectify the attack. The first phase lasted 32 minutes, there were 258 shots.
Foued Mohamed Aggad and Ismaïl Omar Mostefaï stop their shooting, take refuge in a corridor upstairs with 12 people. It is 10:20 p.m., the hostage-taking begins. Among the captives, Stéphane Toutlouyan, then aged 49, heard them say “that they are from the Islamic State organization, that it is François Hollande’s fault”.
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve follows the operations of the Beauvau crisis unit live, with the Head of State and Prime Minister Manuel Valls. He remembers the questions that tormented them then: “Did the terrorists trap the performance hall?” If the police intervene, is it the whole room that jumps? […] We do not know it “.
Bernard Cazeneuve, in 2018, during a ceremony in tribute to the victims of the attacks of November 13, 2015.
Suzie ends up being evacuated from the pit. “I’m just looking at the dead people. It’s really a terrible sight […] Suddenly, it was in front of our eyes ”. She sinks into “an uncontrolled fit of tears.” The police order him to raise his hands. “It’s that very strange moment when we are a victim but where there is a form of suspicion because a terrorist can hide among us”.
Upstairs, the police are stopped in their progress. Behind a closed door, “we heard cries of hostages,” said Commissioner Christophe Molmy, then boss of the Research and Intervention Brigade (BRI).
Police officers from the Search and Intervention Brigade, who stormed and freed the 12 hostages held upstairs in the Bataclan by two terrorists.
The hostage-taking lasts two hours, in a cramped corridor, ten meters long. Three hostages are placed behind the door. Several others in front of the windows to watch the street and the roofs. “If you see something and you do not warn us, we shoot you and throw you out the window,” let go of the jihadists. “For me, we were dead. I did not see how it could end well, ”says Stéphane Toutlouyan.
At around 11:15 p.m., the BRI finally established contact to try to negotiate. “Faced with the refusal to release hostages and surrender […] we proceeded with the assault,” explains Commissioner Molmy. It is 12:18 am The BRI comes under fire and retaliates after taking the hostages to safety behind its shields. Foued Mohamed Aggad blows himself up. Ismaïl Omar Mostefaï was shot dead at 12:22 a.m.
Stéphane Toutlouyan remembers a deafening noise. “A ‘robocop’ takes me and says:” We must go out. ” The BRI operator is tearing our shirts apart. He said, “Don’t look in the pit”. There is a mountain of bodies and blood everywhere. In the street, they search us a second time ”. “The assault is a miracle,” greeted another hostage, David Fritz Goeppinger, 23 at the time.
Almost six years later, Suzie continues to wonder: why did she come out alive? “The people who were right next to us, they are dead, they were just 50 centimeters further to the left […] Pure chance, we really have a hard time putting up with it”.