The lead singer of the rock band Eagles of Death Metal has apologised for making "absurd accusations" about the staff at Paris's Bataclan theatre being complicit in the massacre which left 89 people dead. Jesse Hughes had earlier claimed that he found it suspicious that some of the security guards did not arrive for work on the night of the shooting.
"It seems rather obvious they had a reason not to show up," he told Fox Business Network, although he said he would not make a definitive statement out of respect the police investigation.
Hughes claimed that when he first got to the venue he walked past the man who was supposed be the security guard for backstage and he "didn't even look at me". He said: "I immediately went to the promoter and said, 'Who's that guy? I want to put another dude on,' and he goes, 'Well some of the other guards aren't here yet,' and, eventually, I found out that six or so wouldn't show up at all."
One of a series of coordinated attacks by gunmen across the city on 13 November 2015, most of the 130 victims were killed at the venue, where around 1,500 people had crammed in to see the band.
Reacting angrily to the frontman's suggestion, the owners of the theatre released a statement calling Hughes' claims "insane" and accused him of making "grave and defamatory accusations".
"A judicial investigation is undergoing," they said. "We wish to let justice proceed serenely. All the testimonies gathered to this day demonstrate the professionalism and courage of the security agents who were on the ground on 13 November. Hundreds of people were saved thanks to (these agents') intervention."
Using the band's Facebook page, Hughes later said there was no excuse for the "unfounded and baseless" accusations against the security guards and pleaded for forgiveness.
"I humbly beg forgiveness from the people of France, the staff and security of the Bataclan, my fans, family, friends and anyone else hurt or offended by the absurd accusations," he said. "My suggestions that anyone affiliated with the Bataclan played a role in the events of 13 November are unfounded and baseless – and I take full responsibility for them."
He added that he had been dealing with "non-stop nightmares and struggling through therapy to make sense of this tragedy and insanity".
It is not the first time Hughes had courted controversy since the attacks. During a February interview with French TV station iTele he argued for universal access to guns.
"Did your French gun control stop a single fucking person from dying at the Bataclan?" he said. "And if anyone can answer yes, I'd like to hear it, because I don't think so. I think the only thing that stopped it was some of the bravest men I've ever seen in my life charging head-first into the face of death with their firearms.
"I know people will disagree with me, but it just seems like God made men and women, and that night guns made them equal," he said. "And I hate it that it's that way. I think the only way that my mind has been changed is that maybe until nobody has guns everybody has to have them.
"Because I've never seen anyone that's had one dead, and I want everyone to have access to them, and I saw people die that maybe could have lived, I don't know."
The band nonetheless returned to France last month, where they played for survivors of the massacre in a gig at the Olympia venue, a few miles from the Bataclan.