French police attempt to end a hostage situation in Paris
French police secure the area outside a cafe near the Bataclan concert hall following fatal shootings in Paris, Nov. 13, 2015. Christian Hartmann/Reuters

More than 115 people were killed during a hostage crisis before police SWAT teams stormed the Bataclan theater in central Paris at around 1 a.m. Saturday local time, freeing an unknown number of victims and killing three terror suspects, according to a live TV broadcast by CNN. The Paris SWAT team waited around two hours before entering the building, despite tweets from hostages suggesting that the terrorists were killing people indiscriminately.

It was not immediately clear how many hostages died before the rescue operation took place, but it’s likely the length of time the police waited will be the subject of scrutiny in the aftermath of the attacks, according to an expert in hostage situations and counterterrorism. “In this case, the police tactical teams should have just gone in straight away, using the quickest preliminary plan they had,” said former Army Special Forces Col. Steve Bucci, now director of the Center for Foreign and National Security Policy at the Heritage Foundation, a Washington, D.C., think tank. “With their high level of training they could have gone in and used their instincts to resolve this situation quickly.”

Bucci said police would have encountered a rare scenario where possible suicide bombers had taken hostages, making the job of the SWAT team increasingly difficult as they would be essentially putting more lives at risk by storming the theater. “They would normally try to get into a difficult area like that using unpredictable methods like going through walls, through the ceiling, while also trying to confuse the bad guys by using flash bangs, giving them the split-second advantage they need to shoot the hostage takers,” Bucci said.

The hostage situation unfolded during a night of reported coordinated terror attacks at several different locations across France’s capital. Suicide bombers hit a bar near the Stade de France, a soccer stadium in northern Paris where the French and German international teams were playing. Footage from the game shows players looking around nervously as the noise of the suicide bombers who blew themselves up outside reverberated around the stadium. Additional attacks took place at other locations in central Paris.