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October 6, 2021 11:42 am
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Fear, Bullets and Blood: Bataclan Survivors Relive Ordeal in Paris Court

avatar by Reuters and Algemeiner Staff

A French policeman stands guard in front of the Bataclan concert venue during a ceremony marking the fifth anniversary of the deadly terror attacks in Paris, France, November 13, 2020. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

“They were shooting us down like animals. As soon as a mobile phone rang, as soon as someone screamed, they fired,” Cedric Bouhour, 43, a survivor of the 2015 attack on the Bataclan concert hall, testified in a Paris court on Wednesday.

Six years after Islamist gunmen killed 130 people — 90 of them in the Bataclan — and wounded hundreds in coordinated attacks in Paris, survivors from the concert hall told the court of the fear they experienced, the deaths and injuries they lived through, and their lingering trauma.

They described having to lie down on the floor for hours, or hide in cupboards, thinking they would die at any moment, not knowing if their loved ones were still alive. They spoke of the bullets in their bodies and the fragments of flesh that hit them after attackers blew up their suicide vests. And of having to walk over bodies when they finally escaped.

“I heard someone die, suffocating in their own blood. I don’t know if you ever witnessed that? I saw others die, as they were looking at me,” said Bouhour, a delivery driver.

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His eyes welled up with tears when he recalled how he thought his wife, who was with him at the concert, had died, after he spent 45 minutes looking through bodies, trying to find her. She had been hiding and also survived.

Wednesday was the first day of testimony on the Bataclan attack. The trial started last month and a verdict is expected in late May.

Thirty-year-old Clarisse Faure said she was in court “for those who cannot do it today, for those who never left the Bataclan.

She hid in a suspended ceiling for four hours, together with other concertgoers. Before the attack started, she had been looking at the crowd: “Everyone was happy, it was amazing.”

Afterwards she suffered from post-traumatic stress, drank too much, broke up with her boyfriend and for a long time could not work. “You took away from me the pleasure of living,” she told the defendants.

On Nov. 13, 2015, the assailants burst through the music hall’s main entrance and sprayed automatic gunfire into the crowd as the Californian rock band the Eagles of Death Metal played.

During an hours-long assault, the attackers also took some concertgoers hostage. The attack ended after one militant was shot dead by police and the two others killed themselves by detonating explosive vests.

BLOOD EVERYWHERE

Earlier in the day Irmine, 55, told the court she was probably still alive only because her friend Fabian shielded her when the gunmen opened fire.

Fabian died on the spot. Irmine was hit by a bullet in the chest and fell to the ground, injured but conscious. After a while, lying on the ground as the gunmen sprayed the crowd with bullets, someone nearby urged her to leave as the attackers were reloading.

“I try to stop (Fabian’s) bleeding, but it’s not possible. There is blood everywhere. I try to pull his body once, twice, but I can’t,” she said, choking. “I didn’t want to leave without him but I thought about my kids, about my husband, I thought that they needed me and I left.”

While Wednesday was the first day of testimony on the Bataclan attack, survivors of the attacks on bars, restaurants and the Stade de France stadium have over the past weeks told how they are still haunted by the sound of explosions, images of human flesh and the smell of blood.

Questioning of the accused, most of whom face life terms, will start in November but they are not due to testify about the night of the attacks until March.

Defendant Salah Abdeslam, 32, is the only surviving member of the Islamic State cell that carried out the attacks, prosecutors say. He has told the court that he is “an Islamic State soldier.”

Others are accused of crimes ranging from providing the attackers with weapons or cars to planning or taking part in the attacks.

There are around 1,800 plaintiffs and more than 330 lawyers in France’s biggest-ever trial.

Turning to look at the accused, Irmine, who asked that her surname not be mentioned, said: “I don’t know what can go through the heads of killers … the people they shot at were real people, not objects. I hope that this trial opens their eyes.”

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