News Europe

Friday 30 September 2016

Witness claims police ignored his calls before Bataclan attack

Henry Samuel in Paris

Published 24/11/2015 | 02:30

A soldier stands guard over Stadhuis Van Brussel in Grote Markt, Brussels
A soldier stands guard over Stadhuis Van Brussel in Grote Markt, Brussels

A WITNESS claimed he alerted police of suspicious activity minutes before the Bataclan attack.

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The man claims to have told police about the terror suspects minutes before the Bataclan attack, after he saw their "weird faces" in a car outside the concert hall, but he said they didn't take him seriously.

The witness, who wishes to remain anonymous, was smoking a cigarette outside the Cellar restaurant in the French capital's 11th arrondissement on Friday 13 November, at 7.40pm ,when the suspicious behaviour of men in a black car with a Belgian licence plate drew his attention.

"[The driver] was trying to park, but with difficulty," the witness told BFM TV.

He decided to go and tell the driver the car was blocking the entrance to a garage. "I said: 'Move it, people can't get past.'" he said. "They looked at me coldly, without opening the window. They had really weird faces, with bulging, shiny eyes [...] That stopped me in my tracks and put me off," the man said. The witness walked back to the restaurant a couple of minutes from the Bataclan but continued to observe the car passengers.

"What's bizarre is that they stayed like that for two hours, lights out and engine running. I thought they were drug traffickers - I would have never thought there would be terror attacks."

Thanks to the light from their cell phone screens, the witness said he was able to see the "pale" faces of the occupants, and that the driver was struggling to turn the steering wheel as he was holding it from below.

"It was a nice car but the men were dressed like thugs," he said.

Feling uneasy, the witness left the restaurant earlier than usual. The car and its passengers were still there when he headed off, at 9.20pm.

It was only when he learned of the attacks on the Stade De France, which started shortly before the Bataclan assault, that he tried calling the police several times. At 9.40pm, he called 17 - the emergency telephone number - but he was told to phone the police station of the 11th arrondissement. The witness claimed nobody seemed to take him seriously.

The next day, however, the police called him back - he was able to recognise the faces of the suicide bombers on pictures showed to him by the police.

French police, on Sunday, issued a new appeal to identify the third man involved in the attacks at the national stadium. The man was among three people who died outside the Stade de France when terrorists detonated suicide bomb belts.

Belgian police have arrested 16 people in a major anti-terror operation, but on-the-run Paris attacker Salah Abdeslam remains at large.

No arms or explosives were found in 19 raids across Brussels - including the Molenbeek area from where the Paris attack was planned - or two in Charleroi, police said.

Abdeslam was said by 'Le Soir' newspaper to have been identified fleeing in the direction of Germany in a BMW.

The authorities urged a social media blackout of operations as the desperate manhunt continued for surviving members of the group behind the gun and bomb murders of 130 people in the French capital.

Brussels remained on high alert as British Prime Minister David Cameron prepared to meet French President Francois Hollande to discuss action to crush the extremist threat.

Mr Cameron will present the case for escalating British military involvement to Parliament later this week - with the Paris attacks and an unanimous UN Security Council resolution galvanising support among MPs.

He is meeting Mr Hollande in Paris as the French president starts an intensive push to create a "grand coalition" to destroy Isil, which will take him to Washington and Moscow in the coming days.

A Commons vote on air strikes could be held as early as next week, as Chancellor George Osborne said the deaths of 130 on the streets of Paris and the UN resolution backing "all necessary measures" were swaying the argument.

The clampdown in Brussels continued for a third day and is unlikely to be lifted before tomorrow. (© Daily Telegraph London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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