Twelve days after the wave of terror attacks that brought Paris to a standstill and left 130 people dead, investigators now have a clear picture of what happened inside the Bataclan concert hall, where three gunmen claimed the lives of 90 victims.
One of the city's most popular live music venues, the 1,500-seat Bataclan is located in the capital's 11th Arrondissement, at the heart of the French capital. The exact attendance at the Eagles of Death Metal concert on November 13 remains unconfirmed, but witnesses agree that it was a packed house.
"There was this real rock'n'roll atmosphere, the singer was joking with the audience, who were really into the show," said Pierre, an audience member who survived the attack.
The Bataclan siege was the last of the six attacks carried out at different locations across the city. Here's what we know about that night.
9:40pm — Gunmen Open Fire
At 9:40pm, nearly 30 minutes into the Eagles of Death Metal set, three attackers stormed the building and began firing into the crowd.
Two of the six security agents on duty that night were stationed at the main door, and they rushed to open up the emergency exits when the first shots rang out. "Didi," who was overseeing security at the Bataclan, told French daily Le Monde that the attackers fired at the security team and shattered the glass windows in the entrance of the hall.
At 9:49pm, the first message announcing the attack was posted on Twitter. Public prosecutor François Molins later revealed that a mobile phone that likely belonged to one of the attackers was retrieved from a trash can outside the Bataclan. It contained a text message sent at 9.42pm to an unknown contact. "We've left," it said. "We're starting."
Many witnesses who survived the attack have said they initially thought the gunshots were "firecrackers" or pyrotechnics, before they realized that the attackers were shooting into the crowd from behind. Some attendees said they only realized they were under attack when the band ran off the stage.
Louise, 27, was standing near the front of the stage when the attackers entered the venue. Speaking to French daily Libération last Thursday, Louise said she didn't immediately understand what was going on. "The band had already left the stage. I turned around: people were lying down. And then, the smell of blood." She sustained only a minor injury to the head, and was able to hide in the pit until security forces arrived.
9:45pm — Officers Arrive and Kill One Attacker
According to a police report published by French news magazine Marianne, officers from the Anti-Crime Brigade received a call at 9:45pm and were the first to arrive on the scene. Twenty or so officers helped evacuate the people who had managed to flee from the hall, setting up an improvised emergency aid station in a nearby restaurant.
A video shot by a reporter living across from two of the Bataclan's emergency exits shows injured concertgoers pouring out of the hall.
According to witness statements, some people took advantage of the terrorists reloading their guns to escape through the main entrance, while others, unable to access the emergency exits, sought refuge in the bathrooms or on the roof of the building.
A police commander and his partner were the first cops to enter the venue. They shot one of the gunmen, who was standing by the stage directly across from them. The attacker was holding an audience member at gunpoint, ordering the person to lie down. "We fired immediately in the certainty that we would hit him at this distance because we train a lot," the police commander told French television channel M6. "But also with the certainty that if we missed, we'd die, given his firing power." Police believe the man's explosive belt detonated when he fell to the ground.
The two officers then left the hall to await backup. "[Officers] had to turn round when the other terrorists reloaded their weapons to await the intervention of the special forces," the deputy secretary general for the French police union told AFP.
10:15pm — Attackers Take Hostages Upstairs
After exchanging gunfire with officers stationed outside the building, the two remaining attackers moved upstairs, taking a dozen or so people hostage in a corridor, behind a closed door. Agents from the Search and Intervention Brigade (Brigade de Recherche et d'Intervention — BRI) and the Research, Assistance, Intervention, Deterrence police unit (RAID) arrived a few minutes later. According to reports, no shots were fired after 10:15pm.
Stéphane, 49, was among the hostages. Speaking to French daily L'Humanité in the days following the attack, he described his two-hour ordeal with the attackers. Stéphane explained that he was watching the concert from the balcony when the first shots rang out. "We're trying to hide among the seats but they can see us," he said. "They came to us saying, 'We're not going to kill you, follow us.'"
'They came to us saying, "We're not going to kill you, follow us."'
The first BRI unit entered the Bataclan around 10.30pm, allowing for the injured to be evacuated. Security forces combed through the building, and they arrived at a closed door at 11:15pm. The attackers were holding hostages on the other side.
When police tried to open the door, one of the hostages — a messenger designated by the terrorists — yelled at the police not to enter, saying the attackers would begin killing hostages.
The two remaining gunmen asked to speak to the police on the phone, and according to French weekly L'Obs, five calls were made to a number provided by the attackers between 11:27pm and 12:18am. In an interview with L'Obs, the BRI's chief negotiator — known only as "Pascal" — said he soon realized the men had no intention of surrendering.
12:18am — Police Launch Final Assault
Officers entered the corridor in a single-file formation, protected by a bulletproof shield on wheels known as the "Ramsès." The shield, which weighs around 175 pounds, stopped 27 bullets during the raid.
Police managed to free all the hostages unharmed, and the two attackers — both wearing explosive belts — were killed. According to BRI deputy director Georges Salinas, many audience members were hiding inside closets and false ceilings, and it took the police an hour to evacuate everyone from the building.
Two of the three Bataclan attackers have been identified. They are Ismaël Omar Mostefaï, a 29-year-old Frenchman born in the Essonne district, just south of Paris, and Samy Amimour, 28, born in Drancy, just north of Paris. The two men were known to French intelligence services for having traveled to Syria in the past few years.
According to French radio station RTL, investigators have also identified the third concert hall attacker, but this has not been confirmed. A total of 90 people lost their lives during the siege. Several others were seriously injured and are still being treated for their wounds.
On Tuesday, prosecutor Molin developed another scenario — that the suspected mastermind behind the attacks, Belgian jihadist Abdelhamid Abaaoud, was watching the awful mess he helped to create.
While the police were trying to free the hostages, a suspicious man was wandering the streets near the Bataclan between 10.28pm and 12.28am. He might have been the infamous Abaaoud.
The possibility that the mastermind of the attacks was on the scene is based on the fact that the mobile phone Abaaoud is believed to have used was tracked in the area of the Bataclan and also near the bars and cafes that were devastated by machine guns and explosive vests. Abaaoud is suspected of being a member of the three-man crew that killed many people sitting in bars and cafes that very same night.
On that bloody Friday night, Abaaoud took the subway in Montreuil (where the car used for the bar killings was found) to come back to the center of Paris. According to Molins, he wandered the streets of the killings and watched the police working at the Bataclan. Abaaoud was killed on the Wednesday following the attacks during a French police raid in Saint-Denis, a suburb north of Paris. He was planning, Molins said, to attack La Défense, a major business district near Paris, on the day he was killed.
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