Bar in Paris attacks re-opens after 'nightmare'

Fabian Erik Schluter, Joris Fioriti
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A man walks past the terrace of the bar "A la Bonne Biere" in Paris on December 4, 2015

A man walks past the terrace of the bar "A la Bonne Biere" in Paris on December 4, 2015 The Paris bar where five people were killed by jihadist gunmen in the November 13 attacks is the first of the attacked bars to re-open, in an emotional step in the city's struggle to regain normality. (AFP Photo/Kenzo Tribouillard)

PARIS (France) (AFP) - A Paris bar where five people were killed in the jihadist attacks became the first to re-open, with customers defiantly returning to the site where black-clad gunmen sprayed bullets at terrified evening drinkers.

A La Bonne Biere opened for business on a bright and sunny morning in the east of the capital and the first customers pushed through the doors as if everything was -- almost -- normal.

The manager, Audrey Bily, came out to address a crowd of journalists and television cameras, standing near to where a carload of gunmen had pulled up on November 13 and spread terror through the trendy district as people enjoyed an end-of-week drink.

"I would like to thank everyone who has supported us for your poems, your messages and posts that have so helped us," Bily said.

"What are we going to do to start again, to bounce back? We have carried out some work, and repainted the walls to wipe away the signs of this nightmare.

"The Bonne Biere cafe was a place where people meet and exchanged and shared. That is what we want it to be again today," she said.

Piles of candles and flowers in memory of the victims have been moved to make way for wicker chairs on the terrace as the everyday life of the bar resumed.

But a pile of floral tributes still lines the pavement in front of the bar, many wilting but some fresh. In the middle of them someone has hung a T-shirt emblazoned with the slogan "Proud to be Parisian".

One of the customers having a coffee at the bar, David, 45, told AFP: "I need to feel that life is resuming. We mustn't give in to fear, you have to fight.

"It feels good to be here, with people who go to the same cafe, the same flower shop, the same bakery."

In the evening the cafe was packed with diners, more so than before the attack, according to locals.

Bily pronounced herself "very happy".

- Tributes still being laid -

But while the bar has defiantly re-opened, the Casa Nostra pizza restaurant opposite, which was also hit, remains closed.

CCTV footage from the Casa Nostra showed the horror of the assault, with one desperate woman's life saved when either an attacker's gun jammed or he had second thoughts.

The gunmen -- the attacks' ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud, Brahim Abdeslam and an as yet unidentified third man -- sprayed five bars and restaurants with gunfire.

Abdeslam then killed himself by detonating an explosives vest in another bar, Le Comptoir Voltaire, although no one else was killed there.

In the worst of the violence, another team -- including former Paris bus driver Samy Amimour -- killed 90 people as they attended a rock concert at the Bataclan concert hall, which is a short walk away from A La Bonne Biere.

Hundreds of people still flock to the Bataclan every day, which has become the focus of the mourning for France's worst ever terror attack.

This week, two of the Bataclan's owners said they intended to reopen the venue by the end of next year, while Eagles of Death Metal -- the band of that were playing at the time of the attack -- said it plans to return to the French capital Sunday.

The California band will join U2 for the Irish rockers' final song at the AccorHotels Arena, also known as Bercy, the US magazine reported, in what promises to be a highly emotional moment for both bands and the thousands in the crowd.

Eagles of Death Metal has already said it wants to be the first to play the Bataclan when it reopens.

Cleaning workers have also begun clearing away flowers from outside the Carillon bar and the Petit Cambodge restaurant, where 15 people lost their lives.

While the A La Bonne Biere bar has wiped the traces of the attack away and reopened, for many locals the scars are mental, and harder to get rid of.

Psychological help has been made available to residents, while others are seeking solace in their religion.

Ibrahima Gueye, a building caretaker, said he was no longer visiting his mosque, but instead praying at home.

"If someone sees me go into the mosque, they'll take me for a terrorist," he said.