“It was a race against time,” says former Sdat police officer

The research of a lifetime. The film “November”, released in theaters this Wednesday, recounts the investigations that followed the November 13 attacks. Jean Dujardin, Anaïs Demoustier and Sandrine Kiberlain play the roles of the policemen of the Sdat, the anti-terrorist subdirectorate of the judicial police, who tracked down for five days the accomplices of the terrorists who killed 131 people in Paris and Saint-Dennis.

“It was a race against time,” he says. 20 minutes Raphaëlle*, a former Sdat investigator who, like the characters in the film, did not count her hours to find Abdelhamid Abaaoud’s trail. The death of the terrorist, during an assault by the men of the Raid in Saint-Denis, “marked for us the beginning of the investigation”, she underlines.

The policewoman recently attended, with colleagues, the preview of the film. She gives us her impressions of the work of Cédric Jimmenez and tells us how he lived through this tragic night and the investigations carried out by the judicial police below.

What did you think of the film, you who were at the center of the investigation?

I went, with colleagues, to the preview. They found it a bit disturbing because, until now, we couldn’t really define what we had experienced. The investigation was so extraordinary that for some investigators it was difficult to find, after all these years, a “normal” life as a police officer.

“November” is above all an action movie that recounts the hunt for Abaaoud and the five days that followed November 13. It’s out of breath, but it’s still a fiction, it’s not a documentary. So there are things that do not conform to reality.

For example, the roles played by Jean Dujardin, Anaïs Demoustiers and Sandrine Kiberlain are inspired by various real police officers. But when Anaïs Demoustier operates alone, in reality, this would not be possible. An SDAT cop would never do that. We work with extreme rigor in these investigations, we do not do anything. But it was necessary for the stage springs. And it works fine.

Do you remember when you knew the attacks were underway?

It was a quiet afternoon. we were going home I remember that she was leaving work, it must have been 9 at night. They called me back on the way. The counterterrorism deputy director was inundated with calls, as were his deputy and department heads. When there is an attack, we do not need to call our colleagues again, they return to the department on their own initiative, to Levallois, as soon as they find out what is happening.

We took stock of the available staff and established the planned system. On November 13, it was the Paris judicial police, with the anti-terrorist section of the criminal squad, who made the first findings. We have united them to obtain information, to centralize it.

The Sdat was to coordinate the entire investigation. For this, he was able to count on the territorial network of the judicial police, count on the help of the scientific police, the DGSI and our colleagues in public security. We quickly established the toll free number, 197. It allowed us to get a woman’s testimony that saved us time in finding Abaaoud.

Was the Sdat prepared to investigate an attack of this magnitude?

By definition, we are never prepared for the worst case scenario, we never knew it. On the other hand, since 2005, the Sdat had anticipated various attack scenarios. There had been attacks in Great Britain and we had told each other that a specific system had to be put in place if that happened in France. It is this system that we implemented on November 13: we are preparing to go, with different workshops to investigate. Everything is very formalized. This organization was anticipated and evolves after each attack, after feedback.

How was the atmosphere in Sdat in the days after the attacks?

Exactly like in the movie: there was tiredness, nervousness… We really wanted it to stop. It was necessary to neutralize the fleeing terrorists as soon as possible, because it was feared that a new attack would be committed on La Défense. It was a race against time.

In the police, when you go through hardships like this, the collective counts more than anything. We help each other, we listen to each other. We are driven by a mission that is a little beyond us, even on a personal level. We didn’t come home for days. If we hadn’t gotten along, it would never have been possible. All this has strengthened the ties that united us and that have become unbreakable.

Did you feel relieved after the raid on Saint-Denis for the Raid?

In fact, as the film clearly shows, Abaaoud’s neutralization marked the beginning of the investigation for us. We must not forget that the investigations lasted more than four years and that the trial was very recent! We went to 25 countries, we maintained hundreds of police custody, we wrote thousands of reports… It was several years of very intense collective work.

Several countries around the world have asked us for feedback, because France was one of the few European countries that was so affected by the attacks. From then on, the Sdat gained in expertise, progressed in its organization, obtained reinforcements… The experience of the judicial police in terms of inquiries and investigations in general is extraordinary, especially in the case of multiple victims, which fortunately is exceptional. .

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