Paris attacks: Coulibaly siege coverage 'risked lives'

Police rescuing hostages from supermarket, 9 January 2013 Image copyright AFP
Image caption French security forces stormed the supermarket, rescuing hostages and killing the attacker

French police are investigating claims that broadcast media may have endangered the lives of hostages being held at a Jewish supermarket during the Paris attacks in January.

Six of the survivors have filed a civil suit against 24-hour news outlets.

The lawsuit singles out BFMTV for its live coverage during the siege. The news channel has not commented.

Gunman Amedy Coulibaly killed four people at the Hypercacher Jewish store on 9 January before police shot him.

He had pledged loyalty to Islamic State militants and had links to two men who attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine two days earlier, killing 12 people.

Coulibaly had shot dead a policewoman in Paris a day before storming the kosher supermarket and taking hostages.

'Cannot go unpunished'

Patrick Klugman, the lawyer representing the survivors, said live images broadcast from the supermarket scene "lacked the most basic precautions" and endangered those still alive inside, according to AFP news agency.

He singled out BFMTV, which revealed live on air that the group - including a three-year-old child and a one-month-old baby - was hiding from Coulibaly in the cold room, where they were taken by one of the supermarket's employees.

"The disclosure of the presence of people hiding, during a hostage situation, is an error which cannot go unpunished," Mr Klugman told French news magazine Paris Match.

"A piece of information, even if it is true, must not put lives in danger."

It is known that Coulibaly was watching the news on BFM and other channels as the siege unfolded.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Coulibaly is believed to have been involved in drug crime and knew one of the Kouachi brothers

Several channels are blamed for revealing details of the deployment of special forces outside the supermarket, and at the other siege outside Paris where brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi were killed.

The lawsuit raises a big question about how to manage round-the-clock media coverage of such attacks, says the BBC's Hugh Schofield in Paris.

Nowadays outlets can get very close to the action and potentially make terrible blunders, our correspondent adds.

Malian-born Muslim employee Lassana Bathilywho was granted French citizenship after it emerged how he hid customers in the cold store during the siege.

The supermarket at Porte de Vincennes has since been fully renovated and reopened last month.

The attacks in January triggered fears of further unrest in France, which has Europe's largest Jewish and Muslim communities.

The supermarket, like other Jewish sites in France, was placed under constant police guard.

How the attacks unfolded (all times GMT)

  • Wednesday 7 January 10:30 - Two masked gunmen enter Charlie Hebdo offices, killing 11 people, including the magazine's editor. Shortly after the attack, the gunmen kill a police officer nearby.
  • 11:00 - Police lose track of the men after they abandon their getaway car and hijack another vehicle. They are later identified as brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi.
  • Thursday 8 January 08:45 - A lone gunman shoots dead a policewoman and injures a man in the south of Paris. Gunman later identified as Amedy Coulibaly.
  • 10:30 - The Kouachi brothers rob a service station near Villers-Cotterets, in the Aisne region, but disappear again.
  • Friday 9 January 08:30 - Police exchange gunfire with the Kouachi brothers during a car chase on the National 2 highway northeast of Paris.
  • 10:00 - Police surround the brothers at an industrial building in at Dammartin-en-Goele, 35km (22 miles) from Paris.
  • 12:15 - Coulibaly reappears and takes several people hostage at a kosher supermarket in eastern Paris. Heavily armed police arrive and surround the store.
  • 16:00 - Kouachi brothers come out of the warehouse, firing at police. They are both shot dead.
  • 16:15 - Police storm the kosher supermarket in Paris, killing Coulibaly and rescuing 15 hostages. The bodies of four hostages are recovered.

Three days of terror

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