Quick thinking averted massacre at Paris attacks stadium

Saint-Denis (France), Nov 17: The suicide bombers' remains, clingy flecks of flesh spread in a 10-metre (yard) radius around where they exploded, were flushed down the drains of the city they sought to terrorise, washed away by municipal workers with detergent sprays and power hoses.

All that's left of them now are questions. Their explosive belts, packed with shrapnel that shattered windows and lodged in walls, were designed to kill and maim.

Paris attacks 2015

Yet instead of detonating inside the national stadium packed with 79,000 people watching France beat Germany at soccer, they detonated on less crowded streets outside, during the match, including one in a lonely dead end street 500 metres (yards) away.

Clearly, the casualty count of just one bystander killed and several dozen injured in three explosions outside the Stade de France could have been far worse.

Such blasts inside the stadium or outside among crowds before and after the game would have been more murderous and caused even more panic, further overloading Paris hospitals and rescue services scrambling to treat hundreds of casualties with battlefield wounds shot or blown up in the city centre.

A combination of solid security at the huge arena, quick thinking in a crisis, modern stadium infrastructure and apparent mistakes in the attackers' planning appears to have averted a massacre, suggesting that the host of next year's European soccer championships, which are expected to draw millions of fans from far and wide, is as well-equipped as any nation can be against this vicious new type of threat.

The stadium, much-loved because it was there that the national team won the World Cup in 1998, was the first target hit in Friday night's murderous spree of six separate gun and suicide bomb attacks.

The two city-centre teams of attackers killed 128 people and injured more than 300. But the third team, at the stadium, was far less deadly.

As chaos unfurled outside, authorities decided spectators would be safer kept inside and the match went on.

That decision was taken by President Francois Hollande, in consultation with French Football Federation officials, the presidential Elysee Palace says.

At least one of the attackers tried to get in, despite not having a ticket, but was turned away, said an official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorised to publicly discuss the complex and fast-evolving investigation.

"We think this operation failed," a police official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because French law doesn't allow the release of details from ongoing investigations. "Badly organised."


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