Photo: AFP
Victim Francois-Michel Saada
Photo: AFP

Eyewitness account from Paris hostage held with 3-year-old son

Michael B recounts in detail how he managed to secretly contact police and how victim Yohan Cohen tried to shoot terrorist.

Two days after the dramatic siege at a Paris kosher grocery, survivors' testimonies continued to emerge.



It was revealed Sunday morning that 64-year-old Francois-Michel Saada, one of the victims killed in the shop, arrived at the exact moment the terrorist – Amedy Coulibaly – ordered the shutters be rolled down. Saada assumed the market was being closed earlier than expected and asked to come in just to buy challah for Shabbat. Coulibaly instructed that he be let in, and immediately shot him.


Michael B. with his son
Michael B. with his son


One hostage was held together with his three-year-old son. In an in-depth account to a local newspaper, the man, who agreed to be identified only as Michael B, recounted the nightmare and the heroic attempt by Yohan Cohen – who was held as a hostage beside him – to seize one of the terrorist's weapons and shoot him, only to discover the weapon had the safety on.


"I was on my way to pay for the groceries I was carrying, when suddenly I heard an extremely loud noise," he said. "For a moment, I thought it was a firecracker. But when I looked, I saw a dark-skinned man with two Kalashnikov rifles, and I understood what was happening. I grabbed my child by the collar and fled to the back of the store.


Remembering the victims (Photo: AFP)
Remembering the victims (Photo: AFP)


"Back there, with other shoppers, we ran down the spiral staircase to the cellar. We all gathered in one of the two cold storage rooms. Our door wasn't shut. We were terrified. Five minutes later, a female employee was sent downstairs by the killer. She said we needed to go back upstairs, or else there would be a massacre. I refused to go up.


"Meanwhile, my son – who didn't understand a thing – was panicking. The employee returned minutes later with the same message. I decided to follow her this time. There was a man dying in a pool of blood at the top of the stairs. The terrorist introduced himself to us. He was strangely calm.


The victims of the attack
The victims of the attack


"'I am Amedy Coulibaly, a Muslim from Mali. I belong to the Islamic State,' he told us. Then he told us to put our phones on the floor. He paced back and forth in the store, armed and justifying his acts the whole time – talked about Palestine, French prisoners, his brothers in Syria, and similar things."


Michael then described 20-year-old Cohen's attempt to shoot the killer. "One of the customers suddenly tried to take one of the weapons he had left on the counter, but the weapon didn't shoot. The terrorist put it there because it had a safety after a few shots," he told the newspaper. Seconds later, the terrorist turned and shot at Cohen, who died.


"He then demanded that we call the media, which I did," he continued. "After that, the phone in the store didn't stop ringing. They were mostly journalists. I told them to stop. My son started crying and wanted to go home. He said the terrorist was a bad man."


The customer was one of those who assisted French police in raiding the store, after an hours-long siege. "I managed to secretly get my phone and was in contact with the police while the terrorist wandered the aisles. A police officer told me we needed to be ready to lie flat on the ground when the raid began, which would be soon.


" It was clear that the terrorist was preparing to die. He said it was his reward. He had a weapon in each hand and cartridges within reach. Then he suddenly began to pray. My cell was still on. The police heard everything. Minutes later, the store's shutters were lifted. We knew it was the beginning of the raid. We threw ourselves on the ground. The noise was deafening. He was dead, and it was all over.


Rebecca Boukobza 23, knew Yoav Hattab through the Birthright project, in which they both participated. "He returned to France last Wednesday," she said. "I spoke to him on Thursday to ask him how it was in Israel, and he said he had a great time and it was fun. When I told him I was moving to Israel on Tuesday, he said he was also considering doing the same, but not immediately, because of work-related matters."


Boukobza said the two had planned to meet in Israel sometime in the next few weeks. "He said he would come visit me in Jerusalem," she said. Like many of Hattab's relatives and friends, she only discovered after the end of the Sabbath that he had been murdered.


 "At 1:00 PM on Friday we knew he was a hostage, but because we observe the Sabbath we didn't really know what happened. After the Sabbath began, there were nerve-wracking, difficult hours, and when we found out he had been killed it was extremely difficult."



פרסום ראשון: 01.11.15, 14:28
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