October 16, 2021

Trial of the Paris attacks: the boss of the BRI recounts a night of horror in the heart of Paris

Three “suicide bombers” around the Stade de France, carnage on several Parisian terraces and the worst is yet to come. While one of the shooters has just been blown up at the Comptoir Voltaire, the last front of the attacks of November 13, 2015 opens at the Bataclan.

It was the “best chance” to save lives, but “on paper, the worst solution”: at 12:18 am, Christophe Molmy, head of the Research and Intervention Brigade (BRI), gives the “top” of the assault on the Bataclan, in the midst of hundreds of bodies and wounded. This evening of November 13, 2015, he knows all the details, minute by minute. “I was at home. There was football, I don’t like football, I watched something else as a family”. A “21H47”, he says, everything is accelerating. A journalist informs him of shooting on the terraces in the heart of Paris.

“That evening, in 33 minutes, Paris was the victim of eight attacks”. The insists: “eight attacks! ”“ The attacks were so scattered that we did not know exactly where to go ”.

The team therefore passes through “le 36”, quai des Orfèvres, in the heart of the capital. “From there, we can shine everywhere. We take back equipment, a heavy shield, explosives … “

The silence…

Commissioner Molmy and his men are sent to rue de Charonne. On the way, counter-order, direction the Bataclan. “It’s 10.10-10.15pm when we arrive.” Jérémy, the leader of the column that will lead the assault, remembers “people who cried, cried” around the room and “bodies”.

In the street, the boss of the BRI takes stock with the deputy head of the night BAC (Anti-Crime Brigade) and his driver, who were the first to intervene. The “exemplary courage” of this policeman who shot one of the jihadists was unanimously hailed. Wounded, the assailant blew himself up.

When Christophe Molmy enters the room, there is silence. “Hundreds of people” are “lying in the pit”. “A mass grave”. “It was very quiet, apart from the groans of pain, the complaints”, complete Jérémy.

Secure the premises

“At the time”, the commissioner does not “understand how” the attackers “were able to claim so many victims in such a short time”. He then realizes that there are survivors “traumatized (who) do not move, the time to understand that the police have arrived”.

But no question of letting them out immediately. “We do not know who is in the room, how many were the terrorists, if they are posted in a dark corner to shoot us, if they did not trap the room”, explains the boss of the BRI. Securing the premises requires time and method.

His men take a quarter of an hour to walk around the room, before bringing out the able-bodied and searching them. Then, the slightly injured. Then the “very serious”. “The kalach is a terrible weapon which does terrible damage to the human body”.

Not a sound, no one moved, no one screamed

It is “not far from 11:00 pm” when the BRI goes upstairs. “Not a sound, no one was moving, not shouting”, continues Christophe Molmy. “We found wounded, people crowded in the toilets, false ceilings, an electrical closet … Surely a good hundred, easy”.

At 11:15 p.m., the column came up against a pushing door. She hears a hostage yelling “not to enter”, that there are several “threatened by two terrorists with Kalashnikovs and explosive vests”.

A hostage gives his phone number to the BRI so that the negotiator can get in touch with the jihadists. He and the psychologist are good at exercising. In January, they dealt with Amédy Coulibaly at Hyper Cacher.

On paper, it’s the worst solution

“It is almost midnight. But from the first call (…) we quickly understood that a surrender was not possible”.

Christophe Molmy leaves the Bataclan to tell the Paris police chief Michel Cadot his conviction that they will “not be able to get the hostages out other than by an assault”, despite the configuration of the premises. “Pushing a door in a hallway and attacking terrorists hiding behind hostages. On paper, that’s the worst possible solution.”

The decision to go there without delay is made. Everyone is positioned in the column, “the most seasoned, who were at the Hyper Cacher, in front”. In the room, Jérémy unhooked the Bataclan evacuation plan to prepare for the assault. He has kept it in his office ever since.

“It’s complicated. The hallway is very narrow, the windows are blocked off by hostages. They have been asked to stand against the windows so that our shooters cannot see the situation. We have no view of what we are doing. will find out “, says Jérémy.

27 cartridges hit the shield

There will be “five appeals in all” between the attackers and the negotiator, continued Commissioner Molmy. “Every time they called, we had to stop.” “It bounces like that until 12:18 am”. A few seconds before, new call of the jihadists, but there, Christophe Molmy decides to take advantage of it to give “the top of the assault”.

Hostages were placed in front of the door to block it. She finally gave in. “Immediately, we have a first exchange of shots. We fire very, very few cartridges. But opposite, we take a full magazine of Kalashnikovs in the shield,” explains Jérémy.

“27 cartridges” hit the shield, adds Christophe Molmy. The tactics? “Do not open heavy fire because we had hostages in the middle.”

The hostages crawl to the police, who extract them while continuing to advance meter by meter. But there are small steps that no one has seen, the 80 kg shield, nicknamed “the sarcophagus”, tilts forward, like a “drawbridge”.

“The first in the column showed extraordinary courage. He does not stop”, remembers Jérémy. “There is nothing left between him and the two terrorists. He draws his gun and shoots while advancing.”. Then he sees a shadow rushing towards him, shoots and injures a terrorist. This one sets out again in the opposite direction, falls and blows up his explosive vest.

A “very brief, but very violent” assault

Bobby, the second in the column, describes a terrorist who “falls apart. His head on one side, the trunk on the stairs and everything else stuck to the wall.”

He shoots between the hostages, who are fleeing, so as not to touch them. “It was surgical,” he says. In total, the BRI men used only seven grenades and 11 rounds.

The hallway is at an angle. The second terrorist is there, stunned, “sitting with his back to the wall, looking for his detonator,” describes the commissioner. A BRI man shoots it down to avoid a second explosion. The operation lasted “less than a minute”, remembers Jérémy. A “very brief, but very violent assault“.

An officer was seriously injured in a hand. “I thought he was dead”, says Christophe Molmy. He recongnizes “a part of luck that we do not control”. “We weren’t going to win.”

Even today, at the BRI, that night of November 13, 2015 “comes back almost daily in the discussions,” says Jérémy.

Police officers traumatized by this night of horror

Bobby, who is going to retire soon, assures us that there was no “post-traumatic syndrome”. “All those who were there were marked but (…) not traumatized”, assures Commissioner Molmy.

Psychologists came to the ward. They also received the families who had followed, with fear in their stomachs, the events of the night on TV. A total of 90 people died at the Bataclan.

Jérémy talks about “returning home at 5:00 am, without a filter”. “In a very short time, we go from home to a theater of war and back home. That’s a bit complicated.”