Trendy Paris district scarred after bloody attacks

(Paris: AFP) When Hamideche Dorea nervously left home on Monday, opposite La Belle Equipe cafe where 19 people were gunned down in the attacks that tore through Paris, her pulse sped up when she spotted a van.

"I thought maybe someone inside has a Kalashnikov and is going to shoot at me. I have this fear now, I am scared to leave the house," the 38-year-old told AFP, her lip trembling as she loaded her washing at a laundromat near the cafe.

For Dorea and so many others, the sight of her neighborhood cafe turned into a shrine is surreal.

This modest district is not the glitzy Champs Elysees avenue, or the sort of tourist hotspot where security was beefed up after 17 people were killed in a three-day attack in January on the Charlie Hebdo magazine and a Jewish supermarket.

Instead, Islamist gunmen were sent to savage a youthful, melting-pot community where restaurants and bars are normally humming and the streets full.  

The neighborhood was "calm – we went out, we came back late, it was lively. We drank our coffees on terraces with an unimaginable serenity," Dorea said. "We don't know why we were targeted."

There is less defiance than after the January attacks, even though many have come out to pay their respects or gather in solidarity.

Dorea didn't go to work Monday, afraid that just like after the attack on Charlie Hebdo, the assault would continue for days.

"But tomorrow we will confront life," she said, although she admitted she doesn't expect her neighborhood to be quite the same again.

"They targeted people where they gather and that is scary. To me, now, a terrace means death."

At La Belle Equipe (beautiful team), candles now flicker day and night among flowers and an unclaimed bicycle, where before laughing patrons drank cocktails on a terrace that was always crowded.  

The epitome of the bon vivant French lifestyle, the 11th arrondissement encapsulates everything Parisians hold dear.  

This has made the fear after the spate of attacks in the neighborhood and the Stade de France much more palpable and less defiant than after the earlier attack many refer to merely as "Charlie."

A 'bobo' melting pot

La Belle Equipe was one of the busiest cafes on the block, its terrace remaining packed every night during an unseasonably warm autumn.  

A casual brasserie, it rubs shoulders with some of Paris's finest cuisine as well as places to grab a quick snack such as Istanbul Kebab across the road, tapas or sushi.  

A mixed neighborhood, African men in colorful boubous can be seen walking alongside bearded hipsters, while the building where Dorea lives facing La Belle Equipe houses women in need and refugees from Sudan to Morocco.

Once a working-class neighborhood of carpenters, old antiques stores and other artisans it has become increasingly "bobo", a French term for "bourgeois bohemian" hipsters.

On Friday, "they killed our youth," said Laurette Nozieres, 65, who has lived in the road for half a century.

Mourad Zran, a 49-year-old Tunisian, took over one of the neighborhood bakeries in May, down the road from a celebrity chef's restaurant.

"France to me is peace," said Zran, who like many around the cafe heard the three volleys of gunfire before tired squealed away and chaos erupted.

"Now I have the reflex… even at night when I see a car stop at the traffic light… I pay attention. Frankly, it can happen to anyone now."

'Crushed like ants'

Next door, Frederic Ittah, 48, owns the go-to epicerie for cheese or a rotisserie chicken, where locals are used to sidestepping a brown dog lying on the pavement.

He and the owner of the coffee shop across the road rushed to help victims before police arrived, and he rails against France's "lack of preparation" for the attacks.

"How long have we known we are a target? We aren't surprised," he said of the assault on his "melting-pot" community.

He said the attack showed that specific targets such as the Jewish community and journalists were "no longer enough" for the Islamic State jihadists who claimed the attack.

"The only thing I want is that we be better prepared, because we know it will happen again. Each civilian in a country at war must have first aid training," said Ittah, in a nod to his time spent in the Israeli army.

"In Israel even when there are fireworks people seek refuge in specific places without panic," he said.

"We must prepare – otherwise we are like ants with people coming along to crush us from time to time."


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