Saturday 17 August 2019

'I never imagined my neighbours could be such evil people. What am I to do now? We are living in fear'

Adam Cullen

The sounds of gunshots echoed through the Parisian streets once more on Wednesday morning.

Children were left crying in their beds as the vibrations of explosions and the crackle of bullets shook their city again.

Last Friday a band of merciless Islamic State killers unleashed a horror never before seen in the French capital.

They hunted the young people of France on the streets of their beloved city, callously murdering whoever came close.

Yesterday, the hunters became the hunted. Elite police units swooped in on an apartment close to the Stade De France stadium in the northern Parisian suburb of Saint-Denis.

Their goal was to find the masterminds behind Friday's atrocities that saw 129 people massacred and over 350 injured.

During yesterday's dramatic early-morning siege, two people were killed, one detonating a suicide vest, and a policeman was shot in the leg.

Witnesses and neighbours in the surrounding area believed they were "under attack".

"I am in shock," mother of three Yolande Bazegue said.

"I never imagined my neighbours could be such evil people. To think they had an arsenal of deadly weapons is just so scary. What am I to do with my children now? We are living in fear."

Terrified father Youis Jaballah said his son was almost inconsolable after being woken up by the fierce battle happening just outside his bedroom window.

"My little son was crying and was very scared because of the attacks earlier in the week.

"But I told him not to be afraid that it was the police, and they are here for our safety," he said.

"The police were telling everyone on the street to get away from the windows," he said.

Mr Jaballah said he saw the heroic police dog, Diesel, being killed by an explosion and a police officer being shot in the leg.

"The shooting was constant from about 4.30 in the morning and didn't completely stop until about 11.30am.

"It was just bang, bang, bang all the time. I saw the police throwing some sort of explosives into the flat.

"It was a very scary time. The police had cut the phone lines.

"At about 5.30am a police dog was blown from the third-storey window. I think this was the time the woman set off her suicide vest.

"Later, I saw a policeman who was shot in the leg. At the end, they carried out a woman covered with a blanket and arrested her.

"When I finally came out, there were hundreds of bullet casings on the floor. It was just so surreal.

"I know these people only came here in the last three days. I think the apartment was vacant. I had never seen them before."

Resident Tapik Elemaway said he woke in a "terrible panic", fearing his home had "come under attack."

"My little boy Omar was crying. It was so, so loud. Just bang, bang all the time. So much bloodshed. I didn't know what was happening. We were all very afraid. We still are," he said.

"I am a Muslim we don't want this.

"It is very bad for all of our people. We are a peaceful people."

The usually bustling suburb was on lockdown yesterday as vigilant armed police patrolled the terror-stricken streets well into the evening.

Dressed head to toe in full combat gear, police stopped cars, checked rooftops and frisked civilians.

There is a nervousness in the air. Youths walk the streets in awe at the countless TV trucks, cameras and journalists. People jump with fear at the sound of every bang.

Standing on street corners, teens share stories of what they have seen and heard.

"Look at this," says Gloria Mukrnga pointing at her camera phone.

The footage shows shocking scenes of an elderly Arab man being tazered by police in the street below.

Through broken English, her mother Anna and uncle Francois resort to holding a pretend gun and firing at the ceiling in an attempt to explain what they had heard.

Irish Independent

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