Europe

Paris attacks: Bataclan hostage held for hours by attackers

Stephane T
Image caption Stephane T, 49, was held in the Bataclan for two-and-a-half hours

On 13 November, father-of-three Stephane attended the Eagles of Death Metal gig at the Bataclan theatre in Paris. Islamist militants attacked the theatre, killed 89 people and took many hostages - among them Stephane.

He told the BBC's Maria Grechaninova and Mark Shea about his two-and-a-half hours with the attackers.


How are you feeling a week after being caught up in the attack at the Bataclan theatre?

I went back to work on Wednesday. It was important for me to go back and tell my story to my colleagues and to repay, in a way, the expressions of sympathy they had expressed to me.

Today I'm feeling more or less ok psychologically, although when I'm telling my story it feels like the story of someone else.

The psychologist that saw me said that it is a rather logical phenomenon of dissociation, when psychologically we are able to consider such events unreal in order to protect ourselves. So it feels like I'm recalling a Bruce Willis film.

What happened to you when you were at the Bataclan?

I think that even in France the second phase of the evening - the hostage taking - is not very well known to the general public.

I was at the balcony when the terrorists came in though the main entrance downstairs. When they started to shoot at the crowd they were just underneath.

In the beginning, many people did not understand what was going on, people thought it was just firecrackers, but then the panic started and the members of the band ran off the stage.

I started to realise it was a terrorist attack. I wanted to leave, but as I got to the stairs, I realised that if I ended up face-to-face with the terrorists, they'd kill me.

So I went back, and I saw them arrive at the other end of the balcony.

I got on the ground between the seats.

I saw them coming towards us. There were two of them, with their Kalashnikovs.

They told us, "We won't kill you, get in the corner". So they assembled us in the corner, and gave us their message saying: "We are a part of the Islamic State, we are here to avenge our wives and children in Syria, who are experiencing the terror of the bombs and airstrikes of your president."

Image copyright AP
Image caption Eighty-nine people were killed in the Bataclan theatre - none of them hostages

At that moment I heard the voice of the third terrorist and an explosion on the level below, where the stage was. Now I think that was when the policeman shot at the terrorist who had stayed below and he detonated his suicide belt.

Then the terrorists took us to a corridor along the side of the concert hall. There were 11 or 12 of us and two terrorists.

They made some of us position ourselves against the windows to watch what was going on in the building opposite. Others were placed against the door to the concert hall and the rest at the other end of the corridor leading to little stairs to the backstage area.

We stayed in this corridor for two-and-a-half hours.

There were phone conversations between the hostage takers and the police. Then the police special forces started an assault. Not a single hostage was injured. It was unbelievable.

How did they do it?

They started to push the door a little bit. The terrorists got to the door opposite. There was panic with hostages next to the door saying: "They will blow us up. We're only hostages, we are next to the door, don't go any further!"

And the terrorists at the other end started to fire their Kalashnikovs. So the police threw stun grenades. I fell to the floor in a corner and one of the grenades exploded next to my feet. The police continued to shoot and advanced.

Image copyright AFP/Getty
Image caption Stephane attended the concert to report for an online music magazine

I have an image that stays in my head - one of the terrorists, one metre away from me. In one hand he has his Kalashnikov, he was shooting, and the other - his finger was on the detonator. I don't know why he didn't activate his suicide vest at that moment.

The two terrorists retreated to the stairs. Members of the assault squad led us out. In the hall they tore our shirts to make sure we were not wearing explosives, and then took us outside.

What was happening in the corridor?

At some point the terrorists were asking the hostages for their mobile numbers to give to the police so that the police could call back.

But all they were saying was pretty much: "We are Islamic State, if you don't back away from the perimeter of the theatre we will blow everything up, we have suicide belts."

Image copyright AP
Image caption Tributes were left outside the Bataclan theatre

The terrorists tried to find out if there were any couples among the hostages. That way they said they could send one of them to give instructions to police and if he doesn't come back in two minutes the other one will be killed.

The terrorists only talked to people next to them. They never addressed me personally. I had my nose against the window and I tried to make myself as small as possible. But I couldn't see any other end to this than them shooting us in the head or blowing us up.

What do you feel now towards the attackers and Islamic State?

It's a bit complicated. My sister-in-law asked me if I hated the attackers who held me hostage. I don't feel hatred. Rather I don't understand the way of thinking that makes them take this kind of action. The question that I ask myself is how do you get to taking actions like that?

And the other question - why didn't they kill us with their Kalashnikovs or suicide belts?

After what has happened will Paris seem different to you?

Unavoidably, yes. Concerts are a pleasure for me, it's an important part of my life. Will I be able to go to a concert soon? I can't answer that now. But I have returned to work, I've used public transport.

I can hear noises, even in my own apartment, that make me jump. I'm looking at people on the tube and in the street a bit differently.

But I think it's important to overcome it and continue to live. So that's what I'm pushing myself to do.

I am trying to find via Facebook the other 10 or 11 hostages that were with me for those two-and-a-half hours. I hope that in the near future I'll have a chance to meet them and we could go for a beer and say to each other: "We've been given a second chance - we have to live life to the full!"

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