In the worst of several attacks in Paris on Friday night, a group of gunmen stormed Le Bataclan, one of the best known concert venues in the French capital, where a rock gig was taking place before a sell-out audience of some 1,500 people.
They opened fire and took hostages at the hall in the 11th district of the capital, provoking scenes of panic as concert-goers tried to flee. At least 82 people were killed according to French media.
Later, just before midnight, police commandos launched an assault on the building, amid reports that the killing was continuing. At least three attackers detonated suicide vests and one more was shot by police.
Sometime around 10pm three or four men dressed in black and armed with assault rifles opened fire on the crowd, firing at random as people screamed.
The Californian group Eagles of Death Metal – a garage rock band – who were playing at the venue, managed to escape the massacre according to press reports.
The wife of drummer Julian Dorio said that her husband had called to say that he was safe, according to the Washington Post. Everyone who was on stage was able to escape, he added.
Julien Pearce, a radio reporter who was at the concert, told CNN that it was a “bloodbath”. “They didn’t shout anything, they didn’t say anything, they were just shooting people,” he said.
However one of the attackers was reported to have cried “God is great” in Arabic.
A source close to the investigation was later quoted by AFP as saying that the security forces decided to intervene “very quickly because they were killing everybody”.
“It was filthy inside, a bloodbath, there were people who’d been shot in the head, people who were shot while they were on the ground,” a policeman who took part in the assault also told AFP.
Daniel Psenny, a journalist with Le Monde newspaper, lives behind Le Bataclan and was injured by a bullet in the arm. He says he saw the drama unfold from his window and went out into the street to help.
“I opened the door of the building,” he said. “There was a man lying on the pavement. With another man I’ve not seen since, we pulled him into the hall for shelter. I must have been hit by the bullet at that moment…. I remember feeling what felt like a firecracker explode against my left arm, and I saw it was pouring blood. I think the gunman was at the window of the Bataclan. We went to a couple of neighbours who live on the fourth floor. The guy we had taken in had a bullet in his leg. He’s an American. He was vomiting, he was cold, we thought he was going to die. We called the fire service, but they couldn’t evacuate us. I called a friend who’s a doctor, she explained how to make a tourniquet with my shirt. So we remained stuck there until the assault took place and the special forces came to look for us.”
The journalist filmed the scene from his window as people fled the venue after the gunmen’s assault. The sound of shots and screams can be heard amid scenes of panic that some may find distressing:
Images de la fusillade au Bataclan par lemondefr
In echoes of the attacks on the US of 11 September 2001, urgent messages have been appearing on social media from people seeking information about friends and relatives who were at Le Bataclan, and are missing.
On Saturday morning the area remained blocked off. Police lorries shielded the area from hundreds of cameras from the world’s media.