Le Carillon: Paris bar regulars left reeling after attack

By Kevin Ponniah
BBC News

image copyrightAP
image captionThe popular neighbourhood bar was targeted by a gunman on Friday night

Le Carillon, a cafe-bar in the trendy Canal Saint-Martin area of eastern Paris, is known for its cheap drinks and relaxed vibe.

For many locals, it's unpretentious and inviting, with old sofas and low lighting - a place to meet friends in the evening or stop by for coffee during the day.

Now, its glass windows are pockmarked with bullet holes and the pavement outside is stained with blood.

Just before 21:30 on Friday, as part of a co-ordinated series of terrorist attacks across Paris that saw 129 people killed, a man opened fire with a semi-automatic weapon on the crowded bar.

He then crossed the road and targeted diners sitting on the terrace of Le Petit Cambodge, a small restaurant serving Cambodian and Vietnamese food.

At least 12 people were left dead and the brutality of the attacks has left the tight-knit local community reeling.

image copyrightBBC Sport
image captionFlowers are being left outside Le Carillon
image copyrightAFP
image captionThe bar is situated in a tight-knit local community

"We come every day to this bar because it is friendly, it is simple," Alexandra Damien, a regular, told the Press Association outside Le Carillon on Saturday. Flowers and candles were placed there in memory of those killed.

Two of her friends died at the bar.

"Coming here is normal for us, so we have no idea why they [terrorists] were touching this kind of place. People told me they were coming in with shotguns.

"This is horrible. It is touching a neighbourhood. We're like a small village. It's a small place, we don't need to go out of our area because we have everything,"

The bars and restaurants in this canal-side area are packed on a Friday night.

The shootings targeted so-called "soft targets" packed with fun-loving young people - bars, restaurants and the nearby Bataclan concert venue, where a rock band were playing. That fact has left many Parisians rattled.

image copyrightAP
image captionThe attacks hit several venues popular with young Parisians
image copyrightTwitter

"I'm not scared to go out in this area now, because you can't just stay at home as this would mean to 'ceder a la peur' [give in to fear]," Cora Delacroix, 24, who lives nearby, told the BBC.

"But it's terrible, because I feel like now you can be attacked everywhere. For the [January] Charlie Hebdo attack, it was more specific, it was against our freedom of speech and against symbols. But there, in a random place, that's frightening."

image copyrightAP
image captionMourners have gathered outside Le Carillon and Le Petit Cambodge

Ahmed Naeem, a 39-year-old filmmaker, said he and his friends were still in shock.

"These places are the places we visit every week... streets we walk every day. I've seen dozens of gigs at the Bataclan, eaten at the Petit Cambodge, sat outside Le Carillon on so many nights," he told the Associated Press.

One question ordinary Parisians like Marie Cartal are asking is: why target them?

She lives above the Casa Nostra restaurant in the 11th arrondissement, where five people were killed by a gunman.

"It was really shocking. It was the first time in my life I saw someone dying in front of me," she told the BBC.

"I mean people there were just sitting outside having a drink. They were not politicians, they were not particularly engaged. They were just enjoying the beginning of the weekend. So, why?"