Paris faces poignant Friday 13th six months after attacks

It's been exactly six months since terrorists killed 130 people in Paris, and while the city may have changed and the wounds are still unhealed, the Parisians will be out en force tonight, writes Oliver Gee.

Paris faces poignant Friday 13th six months after attacks
Photo: AFP
Today marks the first six months to very day, Friday November 13th, when jihadists gunned down 130 people in Paris and left 400 more injured. 
The city's residents have had to overcome numerous psychological landmarks since the attacks and the six month anniversary, especially given that it falls on a Friday is another barrier.
Some Parisians, as many did in the days and weeks after the attacks, may think twice before heading out on Friday May 13th.
 “Considering it's Friday the 13th, let's avoid the terraces” was just one message sent to a member of staff at the The Local that may have echoed many people's thoughts in the capital this week.
Even though most of the Paris attackers are dead and the last known surviving suspect has been caught and charged in France, the reality is the terror threat remains and the memories of six months ago still loom large.
While most Parisians have not let their fears change their lives the city still has a slightly different feel.
For one thing, the state of emergency is still underway and has recently been extended for at least a few more months
The tourism industry has taken an almighty whack, with a recent study saying visitor numbers are over 20 percent lower than this time last year. 
Hotels around the city were at around 70 percent occupancy last month, compared to 80 percent in April last year, reported Le Parisien. Many have lowered their rates to become more attractive, yet still can't fill their beds. 
A restaurant union head told the paper that there are fewer people heading out for a bite to eat and that Paris has become “a ghost town” after 10pm.
Meanwhile, the numbers of Asian tourists in town have taken a solid hit, which has been noticed by the big department stores, and museums are suffering similarly, with the Orsay recording an almost ten-percent dip in visitor figures this year compared to 2015. 
Of course, this isn't all just a direct result of the Paris attacks. The Brussels attacks must be taken into account, as the recent staggered school holidays across Europe has meant April wasn't a typical month.
Aside from the tourists, the families of the victims and the injured have been struggling to return to a normal life, with many undergoing counselling for the traumas they have suffered.
Many were angered and upset earlier this week to learn that they were charged with unpaid taxes of their loved ones who had died in the attacks. 
Anger as families sent tax bills for Paris terror attack victims
However, most Parisians have continued to show a brave face, much as they have since the very early days after the attacks. Away from the tourists sites and the hotels, the typical Parisian would tell you that most of the changes from after the terror attacks aren't even noticeable anymore. 
Sure, locals plan ahead for additional security at airports, they expect a (sometimes half-hearted) bag check at large shopping centres, and they're unlikely to even notice the soldiers walking around the streets anymore.
But the restaurants and the cafes that were targeted in the attacks – none of which were major tourist haunts anyway – have all reopened, most removing any signs of flowers or memorials. 
The Carillon bar – where 15 people were shot dead – is overflowing each night as summer approaches, and the prime seats on the terrace of the Bonne Biere are as hard to snag now as they should be. 
And while the Bataclan concert hall remains closed, owners have said it will open in November this year with shows from Pete Doherty and the Senegalese star Youssou N'Dour.
And, in an impressive sign of solidarity, Paris firefighters have been hosting free “life-saving” courses every weekend since the attacks – and the demand remains huge
Yes, life in Paris goes on. 
And while the weather may not be amazing today and some of the wary may hesitate, you can bet your last centime that the terraces of Paris will be packed tonight, just as they should be on any Friday in spring. 

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Gunman killed in Brussels raid ‘had role in Paris attacks’

A gunman killed in a shoot-out with police in Brussels had helped organise the November Paris terror attacks, prosecutors suggested on Friday.

Gunman killed in Brussels raid 'had role in Paris attacks'
Photo: AFP

A man killed in a Brussels raid earlier this week was “very likely” already sought under a false identity by authorities in connection with the Paris attacks, prosecutors said on Friday.

The man named as Mohamed Belkaid went by the name of Samir Bouzid, who was already being hunted in connection with the attacks. There are suggestions he had direct contact with the Paris attacks ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud.

The federal prosecutor's office in Brussels said in a statement that investigations show that “the so-called Samir Bouzid, against whom a look-out warning was issued, most probably is the Algerian national Mohamed Belkaid” killed by police during the gunfight.  

The Bouzid fake identity card was used to wire money from a Brussels Western Union office to the cousin of attacks ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud four days after the massacre in the French capital, the statement added.

The money was presumed to have been used to help Abaaoud find a safe house in Saint-Denis where he was later killed in a raid.

It is also believed Bouzid called Abaaoud's cousin to tell her where he had been hiding out after the attacks. 

But several Belgian media have suggested his role in organising the Paris attacks was far more direct;

They suggest he may have been giving orders to the three commando teams involved in the Paris attacks – the Stade de France bombers, the Bataclan attackers and the team who opened fire on the terraces of bars and cafes across the city.

He could have been the recipient of a text message sent by a mobile phone found near the Bataclan that read: “Right's let go”. 

Belkaid was killed by police during Tuesday's raid. Prosecutors said he was found with a Kalashnikov and and Isis flag.

Two men escaped from the apartment with speculation mounting that one of them could be Salah Abdeslam, chief suspect in the Paris attacks.

More to follow