Eyewitnesses Recount Horror Siege at HyperCacher Market, Say Terrorist Coulibaly Was ‘Oddly Relaxed’
Paris, January 11 – Survivors of the horrific massacre at the HyperCacher supermarket in eastern Paris on Friday have been speaking out about their ordeal.
Nessim Cohen and his girlfriend Marie D. (not their real names) spoke to French daily Liberation today about the events that transpired after Amedy Coulibaly, a terrorist who claimed an affiliation with the Islamic State organization, stormed the market at Porte de Vincennes.
The couple had been doing some last minute shopping at the market when they heard a loud explosion. A dozen people, including the couple, ran towards the back of the store and took refuge in the storage room downstairs. After a few minutes, one of the market’s employees was sent down to get them. The employee said that if those in hiding didn’t come back, Coulibaly would kill all those who had remained upstairs.
Nessim and Marie agreed to go back upstairs with another young man, Yohan Cohen. Seeing that Coulibaly had left his rifle sitting on a box next to him, Cohen attempted to seize it and fought with the gunman for a few seconds before he was shot dead. Three other people had already been killed by Coulibaly by that time, the witnesses said.
Seventeen hostages still remained in the market, along with a few more who had remained in the storage room – Coulibaly never checked the basement, perhaps out of fear of being locked in by the hostages, the two witnesses surmised.
According to Nessim, Coulibaly had two Kalashnikov rifles, two automatic guns and a knife. He was also carrying sticks of dynamite in his bag.
Nessim said that the gunman seemed oddly “relaxed”.
“People could walk around inside the store. Coulibaly even began to make himself a sandwich and told others to do the same,” he said. Coulibaly was also quick to claim responsibility for the shooting of a policewoman in Montrouge the day before, adding that he was acting in the name of Islamic State, Nessim added.
Coulibaly then suddenly became impatient, the couple recalls. He called both French TV station BFMTV and also held conversations with the police. He was heard demanding that French troops immediately leave all Islamic states.
In the meantime, some of the hostages began using their phones to send information to the police.
As Coulibaly began installing explosives inside the market, a Special Forces Unit stormed the site. A screaming Coulibaly began shooting at the police officers. As the police overcame the terrorist, hostages were quickly escorted outside.
Other survivors and witnesses of the siege shared their story with French media earlier in the weekend. A customer named Daniel said that he managed to escape the scene just before the store’s metal shutters were closed by the gunman. “He was very calm and kept smiling,” Daniel told Le Nouvel Observateur.
Another eyewitness named Olivier was in a store right next door to the kosher market when the siege began. “I heard several explosions and saw people running out of the market”, he recalled. “Everyone was panicking. We all then hid in the back of the store”.