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TERRORISM

Over 100 held on terror charges in France this year

Six months on from the Paris terror attacks the French government has defended its response and the ongoing state of emergency saying over 100 have been arrested on terror charges.

Over 100 held on terror charges in France this year
Photo: AFP

France has arrested 101 people since the start of the year over “direct links to terrorism”, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said in an interview to be published Friday, exactly six months after the Paris attacks.

“We are doing everything we can to protect the people of France, but the threat level is still very high,” Cazeneuve told the Ebra media group, which publishes several dailies.

Since 2013, 15 planned attacks have been foiled, he added.

“At the European level, thanks in great measure to France's impetus, progress is being made,” he said.

“Aside from the closely coordinated police and judicial French-Belgian efforts that helped us carry out the recent arrests, the European Parliament has finally adopted the PNR (Passenger Name Record) system which will enhance our detection capabilities of jihadists' movements,” he said.

The European Parliament voted last month to adopt the US-style measure to force airlines to share passenger data with EU states.

Cazeneuve meanwhile said that border checks had been carried out on 33 million people at France's frontiers in the past six months, and that 17,500 people had been refused entry to the country.

Asked about plans to provide security for major events to be held in France in the coming months, Cazeneuve said that “exceptional” measures would be put in place, “in order to ensure the highest possible security.

“That's one of the reasons why we extended the state of emergency until July 26, that is after the end of the football Euro 2016 championship and the (cycling) Tour de France.”

Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Monday announced plans to create regional de-radicalisation centres, in response to last year's terror attacks that killed a total of 147 people.

One hundred and thirty people in the November 13 attacks in Paris, after 17 died in January in three days of violence starting with a massacre at the offices of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.

The government believes nearly 9,300 people in France have been radicalised and are capable of violent actions.

The anti-terror plan will cost an additional €40 million ($45.5 million) by 2018 on top of current funding and aims to ramp up existing efforts to try to help people already in jihadist networks or those likely to join such groups.

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TERRORISM

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks

US Vice President Kamala Harris and French Prime Minister Jean Castex laid wreaths at a Paris cafe and France's national football stadium Saturday six years since deadly terror attacks that left 130 people dead.

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks
US Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff lay flowers after ceremonies at Le Carillon bar and Le Petit Cambodge restaurant, at which 130 people were killed during the 2015 Paris terror attacks. Photo: Sarahbeth Maney/POOL/AFP

The attacks by three separate teams of Islamic State group jihadists on the night of November 13, 2015 were the worst in France since World War II.

Gunmen mowed down 129 people in front of cafes and at a concert hall in the capital, while a bus driver was killed after suicide bombers blew themselves up at the gates of the stadium in its suburbs.

Harris, wrapping up a four-day trip to France, placed a bouquet of white flowers in front of a plaque honouring the victims outside a Paris cafe.

Castex attended a minute of silence at the Stade de France football stadium, along with Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, before laying wreaths at the sites of the other attacks inside Paris.

In front of the Bataclan concert hall, survivors and relatives of the victims listened to someone read out the names of each of the 90 people killed during a concert there six years ago.

Public commemorations of the tragedy were called off last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Last year we weren’t allowed to come and we all found it really tough,” said Bruno Poncet, who made it out alive of the Bataclan.

But he said the start of a trial over the attacks in September meant that those attending the commemoration this year felt more united.

‘Overcome it all’

“We’ve really bonded thanks to the trial,” he said. “During previous commemorations, we’d spot each other from afar without really daring to speak to each other. We were really shy. But standing up in court has really changed everything.”

The marathon trial, the biggest in France’s modern legal history, is expected to last until May 2022.

Twenty defendants are facing sentences of up to life in prison, including the sole attacker who was not gunned down by police, Salah Abdeslam, a French-Moroccan national who was captured in Brussels. Six of the defendants are being tried in absentia.

Poncet said he felt it was crucial that he attend the hearings. “I can’t possibly not. It’s our lives that are being discussed in that room, and it’s important to come to support the others and to try to overcome it all.”

Survivors have taken to the witness stand to recount the horror of the attacks, but also to describe life afterwards.

Several said they had been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, grappling with survivor’s guilt, or even feeling alienated from the rest of society.

Saturday’s commemorations are to wrap up with a minute of silence at the Stade de France in the evening before the kick-off for a game between France and Kazakhstan.

It was during a football match between France and Germany that three suicide bombers blew themselves up in 2015.

Then-French president Francois Hollande was one of the 80,000 people in the crowd, before he was discreetly whisked away to avoid triggering mass panic.

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