PARIS: At least one of the terrorists outside France’s national soccer stadium had a ticket and tried to enter the packed venue before he was detected and he blew himself up.
The Wall Street Journal said the account came from a security guard at the stadium, where President Francois Hollande was among some 80,000 people watching a France-Germany match.
The guard, who asked to be identified only by his first name Zouheir, said the attacker was discovered wearing an explosives vest when he was frisked at the entrance to the stadium about 15 minutes into the game.
While attempting to back away from security, Zouheir said, the attacker detonated the vest, which was loaded with explosives and bolts, according to Paris prosecutor François Molins.
Zouheir, stationed by the players’ tunnel, said he was briefed on the sequence by the security frisking team at the gate, the Wall Street Journal said.
A police officer confirmed the sequence, adding that police suspect the attacker aimed to detonate his vest inside the stadium in order to provoke a deadly stampede, the daily said.
Around three minutes later, a second person also blew himself up outside the stadium.
President Hollande was immediately whisked away from the stadium by security personnel. The president later declared a state of emergency, and ordered curfew in Paris for the first time since World War II.
A third suicide attacker detonated explosives at a nearby McDonald’s, police said. One civilian died in the attacks, police were quoted as saying.
“The account sheds light on why the suicide attacks on Stade de France failed to cause the carnage that occurred at the Bataclan concert hall and restaurants across Paris.”
Some 130 people were killed and over 350 injured, many critically, when seven terrorists linked to the Islamic State went on a killing spree in the French capital on Friday night.
“The blasts occurred during the first half of the game, sowing confusion throughout the stadium,” the Wall Street Journal said.
“At least two blasts were heard clearly inside the stadium, witnesses said, and on the television broadcast.
“Loud blasts aren’t uncommon at soccer matches on the European continent where fans sometimes set off firecrackers.”
At first, Zouheir said he too thought the early blast was a firecracker. Then his walkie-talkie came alive with chatter, and he noticed that Hollande was being ushered out of the stadium, the daily said.
He added that Hollande left after the first blast.
The game continued for the regulation 90 minutes. Witnesses reported that news began to spread inside the stadium late in the second half.