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TERRORISM

France cancels Europe’s top flea market over terror fears

The Lille flea market, considered one of France top annual events, has become the latest to be cancelled amid fears it may be targeted by terrorists.

France cancels Europe's top flea market over terror fears
Photo: AFP

One of Europe's biggest flea markets, in the northern French city of Lille, has been cancelled over security fears in the terror-hit country, mayor Martine Aubry said Friday.

The annual market attracted 2.5 million visitors over two days in 2015, and Aubry said there were “risks we cannot reduce. Therefore I think we must cancel the 2016 flea market.”

“We have really tried our best, but there are risks we cannot reduce,” Aubry told a news conference alongside Michel Lalande, the top government official in the region. She described it as “a painful decision”. 

Lalande said the decision was necessary because of the “hyper-urban format (of the market) with its streets full of people.”

He added: “There comes a time, despite our passions and our convictions, when we have to say stop.”

The flea market, called the Braderie de Lille was due to be held on September the 3rd and 4th. Some 10,000 exhibitors, including 300 antique dealers display their goods during the two day sell off, which is why it's considered the biggest flea market in Europe.

It is just the latest in a growing list of summer events in France that have been scrapped as authorities fear they cannot guarantee adequate security given the unprecedented terror threat.

After the Bastille Day truck attack in Nice the interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve told mayors across the country not to think twice about cancelling an event if they thought security could not be guaranteed.

During a visit to Lyon this week, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said France had to take the threat seriously. 
 
“We are in a situation of war. So, for the moment, we have to forbid events if security norms cannot be respected,” he said. 
 
“Everyone has to understand that we are in this situation and that it brings constraints.”

The list of cancelled events has started to grow.

This week Marseille announced that the air show planned to take place on august 13th has been scrapped after the city’s mayor held talks with police chiefs.

And the traditional August 15th fireworks shows have been cancelled across the country including La Baule in Brittany, the towns of Avignon, Collioure, Chambery and the Riviera resort of Cannes.

Police chiefs in Paris have already cancelled several events in the French capital this summer including a popular open film festival because they could not guarantee sufficient security.

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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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