Paris attacks: Witnesses report attackers firing blindly on the crowds

People being evacuated outside the Bataclan concert hall in Paris on Nov 14, 2015.
People being evacuated outside the Bataclan concert hall in Paris on Nov 14, 2015.PHOTO: EPA

PARIS - Accounts have emerged of the multiple attacks across Paris on Friday (Nov 13) night, where dozens of people died and at least two of the attackers have been killed.

Gunmen and bombers attacked busy restaurants, bars and a concert hall at locations around Paris in what a shaken President Francois Hollande described as an unprecedented terrorist attack. Police sources said at least 40 people were killed and 60 wounded in up to five attacks in the Paris region.

French media reported higher unofficial death tolls, with a French TV saying 100 people died after police launched a rescue assault at the concert hall where hostages were being held.

The apparently coordinated gun and bomb assault came as the country, a founder member of the US-led coalition waging air strikes against Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq, was on high alert for terrorist attacks ahead of a global climate conference due to open later this month.

Mr Hollande, who was attending an international soccer match with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier when several explosions took place outside the national stadium, declared a state of emergency in the Paris region and announced the closure of France's borders to stop perpetrators escaping

Accounts have emerged from those at the scene.

A witness coming out of the Bataclan concert hall, where a hostage situation took place, said attackers "fired onto the crowd with a semi-automatic weapon", FranceInfo reported. "We manage to escape, there was blood everywhere."

The BBC reported that a man, Mr Ben Grant, was in a bar with his wife when one of the shootings occurred. He said they saw six or seven bodies on the ground and were told shots had been fired from cars.

"There are lots of dead people. It's pretty horrific to be honest... I was at the back of the bar. I couldn't see anything," he said. "I heard gunshots. People dropped to the ground. We put a table over our heads to protect us. We were held up in the bar because there was a pile of bodies in front of us."

Liberation newspaper quoted Vincent, a journalist who was at the Stade de France, where France was playing Germany in the football game, reported the BBC.

"Everybody went onto the pitch. The crowd of anxious people began moving after the final whistle, no one knew what had happened outside. We heard two big bangs in the first half and then another one that was smaller. A helicopter was in the air above the stadium after half time," he said.

"The match carried on as if nothing had happened but we were following everything on Twitter, especially the fact that President Hollande had been evacuated even though none of us saw him leave. I didn't see any of the second half. There was an announcement that people should leave via the south, north and west exits but five minutes later many of the spectators had returned."

The BBC also reported Mr Julien Pierce, a journalist who was inside the Bataclan, describing what he saw: "Several armed men came into the concert. Two or three men, not wearing masks, came in with what looked like Kalashnikovs and fired blindly on the crowd.

"It lasted between 10 and 15 minutes. It was extremely violent and there was panic. The attackers had enough time to reload at least three times. They were very young."

The BBC also said that Briton Jonathon Hill from Cardiff, who is currently working in Paris, saw a man directing people into the Bataclan concert hall where people were held hostage: "I was getting cash out of an ATM outside the Metro station which is probably about 50-70 yards away from the Bataclan itself. As I was collecting my cash, I heard three distinct firing shots that at first I didn't believe were actual shots from a gun. They almost sounded like fireworks cracking off in the middle of the street.

"And while that happened I saw a guy probably 6' 4" - 6' 5", quite a heavy set man, looked Caucasian from about 50 yards away. And he was in the middle of the street shouting 'Allez! Allez!' at people. He almost seemed to be a good Samaritan telling people to get out of from the cafes and go inside. As that happened I saw another shot and I saw someone collapse to the floor outside the Bataclan."