Monday 20 May 2019

First photo from inside Paris supermarket siege emerges as France's special forces recount terror

* Tributes paid to the 17 victims of the Paris terrorist attacks
* Startling accounts of Vincennes supermarket siege told for the first time
* Supermarket gunman Coulibaly killed in hail of over 40 bullets
* France's special forces 'worked for 50 hours straight'

First photo from inside the supermarket siege emerges
First photo from inside the supermarket siege emerges

Harriet Alexander

The first photo from inside the supermarket, taken during the siege, has been revealed – showing a man, thought to be Rudy Hada, hidden in the freezer in the basement of the Hyper Cacher beside a young woman and Sarah Bitton, a 20-year-old Belgian cradling her baby.

And the photo emerged as members of France’s special forces recounted the events of Friday afternoon – telling how they had worked for over 50 hours straight before the raid; how Amedy Coulibaly, the jihadi gunman, attempted to barter to free the hostages; and how they eventually stormed the store and killed Coulibaly in a hail of over 40 bullets.

Read more: A river of quiet defiance flows along boulevards

Coulibaly, 32, walked into the Jewish supermarket at 1pm on Friday, killing four people inside and taking a further 17 hostage. He was a close associate of the Kouachi brothers, who at that same moment were besieged in a factory in Dammartin-en-Goele, 20 miles to the north east of Vincennes.

“When that attack begun, we were suddenly not tired any more,” said Jean-Pierre, one of the members of the Raid police. “It was a shot of adrenalin.”

Another of the special forces officers, named as “Stan” in Le Parisien, said that as soon as they arrived at the scene, they began to assess the location.

A woman has taped her mouth displaying the word Freedom on the tape, as she gathers with several thousand people in solidarity with victims of two terrorist attacks in Paris (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
A woman has taped her mouth displaying the word Freedom on the tape, as she gathers with several thousand people in solidarity with victims of two terrorist attacks in Paris (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Read more: Watch: Paris gunman appears in video and declares loyalty to Islamic State

“We moved forwards in an assault column before taking our positions close to the shop,” he said. “We had made several circuits of the supermarket and got very close. We wanted to see what state the entry points were in, in order to plan our assault.”

At first they wanted to take him alive. But, on observing his behaviour, they realised he wanted to die in a shoot-out with the police.

“Sincerely, one of the things that most motivated us was that video of the odious assassination of our colleague Ahmed Merabet outside Charlie,” said Jean-Pierre. “We all had that image in our heads.”

A general view shows hundreds of thousands of French citizens taking part in a solidarity march (Marche Republicaine) in the streets of Paris REUTERS/Yves Herman
A general view shows hundreds of thousands of French citizens taking part in a solidarity march (Marche Republicaine) in the streets of Paris REUTERS/Yves Herman

Stan said that they were initially told there were five hostages inside, but that figure could not be confirmed.

“We had managed to make telephone contact with one of the clients who was hiding in the cold store in the basement. They told us that there was a one-month-old baby inside that room. The baby would only have survived for two hours inside there. But we were able to cut the electricity.”

Demonstrators gather in Place de la Republique prior to a mass unity rally to be held in Paris following the recent terrorist attacks on January 11, 2015 in Paris, France. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Demonstrators gather in Place de la Republique prior to a mass unity rally to be held in Paris following the recent terrorist attacks on January 11, 2015 in Paris, France. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Read more: Charlie Hebdo gunman Kouachi's guru is trainee nurse at victims' hospital

It was this response which likely saved the life of Miss Bitton’s baby.

An explosion at Dammartin-en-Goële as French special forces move in on brothers Said (34), and Cherif Kouachi (32)
An explosion at Dammartin-en-Goële as French special forces move in on brothers Said (34), and Cherif Kouachi (32)
The scene outside the Paris grocery store as French special forces prepared to move on the hostage takers
The scene as French special forces stormed the Paris grocery store where a number of hostages were being held
Hostages flee from the Paris grocery store after French special forces moved to end the siege
Armed securtiy forces fly overhead in a military helicopter in Dammartin-en-Goele, northeast of Paris. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Création Tendance Découverte, a printing business in Dammartin-en-Goële where the Charlie Hebdo shooting suspects are holed up
Armed securtiy forces fly overhead in a military helicopter in Dammartin-en-Goele, northeast of Paris. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
A helicopter with members of the French intervention gendarme forces hover above the scene of a hostage taking at an industrial zone in Dammartin-en-Goele, northeast of Paris. Reuters/Christian Hartmann
Armed securtiy forces fly overhead in a military helicopter in Dammartin-en-Goele, northeast of Paris. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Members of the French gendarmerie intervention forces arrive at the scene of a hostage taking at an industrial zone in Dammartin-en-Goele, northeast of Paris. Reuters/Christian Hartmann
Police vans are lined up in Dammartin-en-Goele, northeast Paris, as part of an operation to seize two heavily armed suspects. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)
French gendarmes secure the roundabout near the scene of a hostage taking at an industrial zone in Dammartin-en-Goele, northeast of Paris. Reuters/Eric Gaillard
A member of the security forces walks inside Dammartin-en-Goele, northeast of Paris. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
A French Army helicopter with intervention forces hovers near the scene of a hostage taking at an industrial zone in Dammartin-en-Goele, northeast of Paris January 9, 2015. The two main suspects in the weekly satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo killings were sighted on Friday in the northern French town of Dammartin-en-Goele where at least one person had been taken hostage, a police source said. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann (FRANCE - Tags: CRIME LAW MILITARY)
Gendarmes block the access to Dammartin-en-Goele, northeast of Paris. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Police and army forces take positions in Dammartin-en-Goele, northeast Paris, as part of an operation to seize two heavily armed suspects. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)
Ambulances arrive in Dammartin-en-Goele, northeast Paris, as part of an operation to seize two heavily armed suspects. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)
French gendarmes secure the roundabout near the scene of a hostage taking at an industrial zone in Dammartin-en-Goele, northeast of Paris. Reuters/Eric Gaillard
Helicopters with French intervention forces hover above the scene of a hostage taking at an industrial zone in Dammartin-en-Goele, northeast of Paris. Reuters/Pascal Rossignol
Police officers control the access to Dammartin-en-Goele, northeast of Paris. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Journalists work near the scene of a hostage taking at an industrial zone in Dammartin-en-Goele, northeast of Paris. Reuters/Eric Gaillard
A gendarme van is parked in a gas station in Villers Cotteret, 80 kilometers northeast of Paris, Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015, where the suspects were reportedly spotted, a day after masked gunmen stormed the offices of a satirical newspaper and killed 12 people. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)
Police officers investigate a gas station in Villers Cotteret, 80 kilometers northeast of Paris, Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015, where the suspects were reportedly spotted, a day after masked gunmen stormed the offices of a satirical newspaper and killed 12 people. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)
A gendarme car is parked in a gas station in Villers Cotteret, 80 kilometers northeast of Paris, where the suspects were reportedly spotted, Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015, a day after masked gunmen stormed the offices of a satirical newspaper and killed 12 people. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)
A member of the French GIPN intervention police forces secure a neighbourhood in Corcy, northeast of Paris. Photo: Reuters
Members of the French gendarmerie intervention forces arrive at the scene of a hostage taking at an industrial zone in Dammartin-en-Goele, northeast of Paris January 9, 2015. The two main suspects in the weekly satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo killings were sighted on Friday in the northern French town of Dammartin-en-Goele where at least one person had been taken hostage, a police source said. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann
A helicopter with members of the French intervention gendarme forces hover above the scene of a hostage taking at an industrial zone in Dammartin-en-Goele, northeast of Paris January 9, 2015. The two main suspects in the weekly satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo killings were sighted on Friday in the northern French town of Dammartin-en-Goele where at least one person had been taken hostage, a police source said. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann
An helicopter flies over Dammartin-en-Goele, northeast of Paris, Friday Jan. 9, 2015. French security forces swarmed a small industrial town northeast of Paris on Friday in an operation to capture a pair of heavily armed suspects in the deadly storming of a satirical newspaper. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Members of the French intervention gendarme forces arrive at the scene of a hostage taking at an industrial zone in Dammartin-en-Goele, northeast of Paris January 9, 2015. The two main suspects in the weekly satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo killings were sighted on Friday in the northern French town of Dammartin-en-Goele where at least one person had been taken hostage, a police source said. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann
Members of the French intervention gendarme forces arrive at the scene of a hostage taking at an industrial zone in Dammartin-en-Goele, northeast of Paris January 9, 2015. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann
Said (left) and Cherif Kouachi, the Parisian brothers of Algerian descent who are suspected of carrying out the attack on the offices of French satirical magazine ‘Charlie Hebdo’, in which 12 people were murdered. Photos: PAtwo
French Interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve (centre) surrounded by National Police Director Jean-Marc Falcone (right) and National Gendarmerie Director Denis Favier delivers a speech as he leaves after a meeting the Elysee Palace in Paris. Reuters/Philippe Wojazer
As a tribute for the victims of yesterday's terrorist attack the lights of the Eiffel Tower were turned off for five minutes at 8pm local time

In the picture, Miss Bitton – the daughter of a kosher butchers in Uccle, Belgium, who has lived in Paris for many years – is seen looking down at her 11-month-old child, wrapped in her black puffer jacket. Mr Hada stares forlornly at the camera.

Above their heads, Coulibaly had pulled down the shutters around the shop, but the police realised it was possible to see inside. Six hostages were on the ground floor.

Read more: The French people have 'linked arms' for a battle which challenges us all

“Our snipers could not risk taking a shot at him, because there were advertising posters all over the windows and it was impossible to get a clean shot,” said Stan.

The terrorist then told the hostage negotiator, who had managed to establish telephone communications, that he wanted to be allowed to broadcast live on a TV channel – in exchange for releasing a boy of around ten years old. The authorities decided not to allow that.

Jean-Pierre said that the end of both siege situations – in the Vincennes supermarket, and 45 minutes away at a print works in Dammartin-en-Goele, where the Kouachi brothers were holed up – was planned to take place simultaneously, just before nightfall.

But in the end the Kouachi brothers decided to come out at around 5pm – at the same time that Coulibaly was praying – and so both operations begun at the same time anyway, regardless of the plan.

Two sticks of explosives had been placed on the door of the supermarket, ready for the team to blow their way in.

“The terrorist immediately opened fire on us,” said Stan. “He shot at us with his Kalachnikov. Then he retreated into the shop.”

Stan thought Coulibaly had gone back in to kill the hostages.

A third member of the team, “Marc”, told Le Parisien that they faced a “hail of bullets” from Coulibaly.

“In front of us we had a man, ultra precise, well trained, who knew how to work his AK47,” he said.

Read more: Homegrown jihadis the biggest fear for security chiefs here

Coulibaly had placed shopping trolleys in the doorway, which impeded their entry.

“Then he threw himself at us,” said Stan.

He was met with fire from the police, ending up with at least 40 bullets in his body.

“It was like a bomb had gone off in there,” said Marc.

They hurried to evacuate the hostages, ushering Miss Bitton and Mr Hada out – she looking overjoyed, and him giving a thumbs-up sign. She told medical staff she feared her child might have suffered from hypothermia following their ordeal, but the child was reported to be “safe and healthy”, with rosy cheeks and a normal temperature of 37.

A source said: “The mother is happy and relieved. The baby did not suffer from hypothermia following his period in the cold store. Both mother and baby are doing well.”

Mr Hada has now gone skiing, on a long-planned holiday. He had been in the supermarket to buy provisions for his trip.

Read more: Three days of terror: how tragedy unfolded

The special forces found that Coulibaly had booby trapped the store, leaving a door packed with several kilos of explosives. They also found that he had on him a stockpile of ammunition, submachine guns and automatic weapons.

“The hostages all thanked us,” said Jean-Pierre. “Some of my colleagues had tears in their eyes.”

And, after a day of rest, he was back at work – providing security for the massive solidarity march through Paris.

“I haven’t watched the video of the assault yet,” he said. “I think I might wait a bit.”

Telegraph.co.uk

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