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TERRORISM

France to beef up security at Christmas markets after Berlin ‘terror attack’

France says it will boost security measures at Christmas markets across the country after a presumed terror attack at a festive market in Berlin left at least 12 dead on Monday night.

France to beef up security at Christmas markets after Berlin 'terror attack'
Photo: AFP

Security has been beefed up at Christmas markets throughout France following the carnage in Berlin on Monday, French Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux said.

“Security at Christmas markets was immediately reinforced” after a lorry ploughed into a Berlin Christmas market killing at least nine people, he said.

The scenes in Berlin were reminiscent of an attack in the French Riviera city of Nice in July in which Tunisian extremist Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel ploughed a 19-tonne truck into a seafront crowd at a fireworks display.

President Francois Hollande said the French people “share in the mourning of the Germans in the face of this tragedy that has hit all of Europe”.

Most large French cities host thriving Christmas markets at this time of year, but even before the bloodshed in Berlin security at the events had been tight. Armed police and soldiers have been patrolling the Christmas market on the Champs-Elysées in Paris, while several festive markets have been reduced in size with cordons set up outside. Several markets are pedestrian only with cars from banned from the area.

Last month French counter-terror police said they had thwarted a terror attack in the Paris area after they made a series of arrests in Strasbourg and Marseille.

Public prosecutor Francois Molins said police had found automatic weapons and evidence of allegiances to the ISIS group, after raids in Strasbourg and Marseille, and the group was planning to strike in the Paris area on December 1st.

Police sources told AFP that members of the cell had researched bars in north east Paris as well as the Champs Elysées Christmas market. They were also believed to be targeting Disneyland.

The Nice attack which killed 86 people further traumatised a country already reeling from a series of jihadist attacks including the November 2015 massacre in Paris.

 

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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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