In the scramble to survive, people climbed into the upper boxes in the 150-year-old music hall or cowered under the seats. The Eagles of Death Metal musicians quickly fled the stage.
PARIS — The band had been playing to the crowd at one of this city’s most popular music venues, The Bataclan, for about an hour. The 150-year-old music hall was sold out for the show by the U.S. group Eagles of Death Metal.
Suddenly, four men brandishing AK-47 assault rifles entered the hall. There were shouts of “Allahu akbar” just before the gunmen opened fire, and for about 20 minutes there was carnage. Witnesses said the attackers also threw grenades into the crowd.
The Paris police prefect said later that before entering the venue, the attackers sprayed cafes outside the hall with machine-gun fire.
Inside, there was panic. “When they started shooting, we just saw flashes,” a witness named Gwen told French BFM-TV. “People got down on the ground right away. It was all dark.”
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In the scramble to survive, people climbed into the upper boxes of the hall or cowered under seats. The musicians fled the stage. “It was a scene of carnage,” Julien Pearce, a radio reporter who was inside The Bataclan, told Europe 1 radio.
The music hall can seat as many as 1,500 people, but it was unclear how many were inside when the attack began. Some of the spectators managed to escape out back exits, but for minutes the gunmen shot unimpeded.
Pearce told CNN he saw two of the men enter and begin to fire randomly. He said the gunmen wore black and said nothing. They simply fired indiscriminately into the crowd.
“It lasted for 10 minutes, 10 minutes, 10 horrific minutes … and the terrorists were very calm, very determined, and they reloaded three or four times their weapons,” he said.
About 10 p.m., the gunmen began rounding up survivors, holding them as hostages as dozens of police officers massed outside the concert hall. For more than two hours a tense standoff prevailed, with more and more police arriving, enlarging the tense perimeter around the music hall in the city’s 11th Arrondissement.
“I saw these two crazy guys arrive; they started firing on everybody,” a witness named Yasmine told BFM television. She heard one of the men shout: “‘What you are doing in Syria, you are going to pay for it now.’”
Yasmine began to cry as she recounted what she had seen. “I’ve never seen so many dead around me.” She was shot in the foot.
With dozens trapped inside and police massing for an assault, President François Hollande went on TV to declare a state of emergency, his voice trembling slightly.
About 12:15 a.m., police began their assault on The Bataclan. There were a few quick rounds of gunfire, several explosions, and then it was over.
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Three attackers blew themselves up, according to French television, and one was shot dead by the police.
Authorities said more than 100 died at the concert hall.