World

Paris attacks: Witnesses describe scenes of carnage and chaos

Witnesses to the Paris attacks, in which at least 120 people were killed, describe scenes of chaos and bloodshed.

Authorities say there were attacks at 6 different locations

People hug on the street near the Bataclan concert hall following fatal attacks in Paris on Friday night. Gunmen and bombers attacked busy restaurants, bars and a concert hall at several locations in the French capital, killing dozens of people in what a shaken French president described as an unprecedented terrorist attack. (Christian Hartmann/Reuters)

It should have been a Friday night like any other in central Paris, with locals and visitors alike watching a show, enjoying a meal or shrugging off the cares of the week over a drink.

But for the second time in less than a year, France and the world are asking how carnage could strike at the heart of this much-loved city, including at a concert hall barely a few hundred steps from January's deadly attack on the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.

"As we went to our car we saw dozens of people running out of the Bataclan," local resident Caterina Giardino, an Italian national, said of the 19th century theatre-turned-music venue where gunman clad in black systematically killed anywhere from 87 to 112 people, according to various reports..

"Many of them were covered with blood, people were screaming," she added, sitting on a bench with a friend as she recalled how one young man emerged from the concert hall with the bloody imprint of a hand on his shirt.

The exact sequence of gun and bomb assaults on the concert hall, a sports stadium and restaurants in the French capital that left at least 120 dead is still unclear.

There were attacks at six different locations, according to a French prosecutor, and witnesses quickly began speaking about the carnage they'd seen.

Bataclan concert hall

Gunmen entered the club during an Eagles of Death Metal concert and started shooting inside. A man identified only as Aurélien, who was at the concert, said that at first, he didn't know what was happening when he heard the sound of gunfire.

"But I understood when I saw bodies fall to the ground," he said.

Another witness there said a man with a Kalashnikov in hand was shooting at people who were on the ground. 

"There were several people. They appeared very young," the witness told France Info.

Clarisse, who was at the venue, said she stayed hidden for several hours under seats at the concert hall. She said the smell of gunpowder was very strong.

Speaking to the Guardian, Marc Coupris said the concert hall was "carnage."

I thought I'm finished, I'm finished. I was terrified.- Marc Coupris, witness

"It looked like a battlefield. There was blood everywhere. There were bodies everywhere. I was at the far side of the hall when shooting began. There seemed to be at least two gunmen. They shot from the balcony. Everyone scrambled to the ground," he said.

"I was on the ground with a man on top of me and another one beside me up against a wall. We just stayed still like that. At first we kept quiet. I don't know how long we stayed like that, it seemed like an eternity ... I thought this was the end. I thought I'm finished, I'm finished. I was terrified. We must all have thought the same. Eventually, when a few gendarmes came in slowly we began to look up and there was blood absolutely everywhere. The police told us to run."

Julien Pearce, a reporter for Europe 1 radio who was in the theatre also said the shooters appeared "barely 20."

"At first we thought it was part of the show, pyrotechnics or whatever. But when I turned round and saw him with his assault rifle and saw flames coming from his barrel, I understood it was no joke," he added.

As the gunman paused to reload, Pearce managed to sneak round the side of the stage and out through an exit. But witnesses described how others were not so lucky.

People react as they take shelter during police operations next to the Bataclan concert hall following the fatal shootings. (Christian Hartmann/Reuters)

"People were falling like dominoes," said a 22-year-old message-runner who gave his name as Toon. He had walked through the doors of the theatre just as three gunmen began shooting indiscriminately at those inside.

"One of the guys had a big hat. They were all dressed in black," he said, adding that he turned on his heels and fled.

Le Petit Cambodge and Le Carillon restaurants

The restaurants are located next to each other at the corner of Rue Bichat and Rue Alibert in the 10th arrondissement, a neighbourhood in central Paris.

A witness, Olivier Boy, told France Info that "terrorists arrived by car, and came in and started shooting."

Fourteen people died in that attack, according to prosecutor François Molins.

La Belle Equipe restaurant 

The restaurant is on ​Rue de Charonne in the 11th arrondissement. A witness there told Agence France-Presse that "there was blood everywhere," adding fire trucks and ambulances were driving up with their sirens blaring.​

The same witness said he saw several bodies on the ground, covered in blood. He said he did not know if they were alive.

Eighteen people are reported to have died in those attacks.

Stade de France stadium

About 80,000 people, including French President François Hollande, were in the stadium for a friendly France-Germany soccer game when explosions went off nearby. Those explosions might have been the result of two suicide attacks, according to news radio station France Info. 

​Rue de la Fontaine au Roi

Five deaths were reported there.

Boulevard Voltaire

Police say one person was killed there.

No claim of responsibility has been made so far, but witnesses at the Bataclan music venue heard the killers shout Islamic slogans and condemn France's role in the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State in Syria.

Explosions went off near the Stade de France Friday night in northern Paris, and there were several other shootings at locations elsewhere in the city. (CBC)
The Bataclan music hall was the site of a mass shooting, as was a street corner near a restaurant called Le Petit Cambodge. There were also shootings at several other locations in central Paris. (CBC)

With files from Reuters

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