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Paris attacks: Steinmeier thought blast was 'fireworks'

23 november 2015, 16:27

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in an interview published Sunday he thought the first explosion he heard a week ago at a Paris stadium was fireworks, but soon realised it was a terror attack, AFP reports.

"We certainly did not see any smoke, but I initially thought it was a firecracker from irresponsible fans," said Steinmeier, who was at the Stade de France November 13 for a friendly match Football match between France and Germany.

He was seated next to French President Francois Hollande when the sound of two blasts rocked the stadium, Steinmeier told Bild in his first recounting of his experiences the night of the attacks.

Hollande "was shocked, but at the same time very focused and determined," he added.

At about the same time other assailants were attacking the Bataclan concert hall as well as bars and restaurants in the French capital. By the time it was over 130 lives had been claimed and hundreds more people were injured.

When Hollande and Steinmeier, still in the stands, learned that three suicide bombers had blown themselves up near the stadium, they "wondered if the spectators could, in such circumstances, remain without information and if the match should be interrupted," the foreign minister said. 

News about the attacks was pouring forth "every two minutes, and the two men left their seats briefly for a quick talk. But security officials urged them to return to the stands to "avoid any sign of nervousness in the stadium".

"When we learned about the attacks in Paris, nobody knew how the night was going to end. I was very worried," said Steinmeier, evoking concerns that a wave of panic could spread through the some 80,000 fans in attendance.  

Hollande ended up rapidly leaving the stadium as the crisis unfolded, but Steinmeier and his team were asked to stay in an effort to keep the crowd from worrying, or worse yet, panicking.

After half-time, "We returned to our seats and for 45 minutes we acted as though we were interested in the game," he said.  

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