France under ‘high’ terror threat but security is in place, says Hollande

France is under a "high level of threat" from terror attack but already has a large-scale security operation in place, President Francois Hollande said on Tuesday, following the carnage at a Berlin Christmas market.

France under 'high' terror threat but security is in place, says Hollande
Photo: AFP

“We have a high level of threat and we also have a particularly high level of mobilisation and vigilance,” Hollande said, expressing his “solidarity and compassion” with Germany.

France, which has been rocked by a series of deadly jihadist strikes over the past two years, “knows… how important it is to be united” in the face of terror attacks, he said.

“That goes for a single country when it is attacked and for all of Europe and the entire world, faced with the terrorist threat,” he said.

Hollande said French authorities had already ordered that security be beefed up over the holidays “at all locations as far as possible, in particular Christmas markets and other gatherings.”

Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux earlier urged the French to “enjoy themselves” but also be careful when celebrating Christmas and the New Year.

“We will ensure the security of our territory and citizens,” Le Roux, who visited France's best-known Christmas market in the eastern city of Strasbourg, near the German border, told Europe 1 radio.

Soldiers have been patrolling the streets of French cities since last year's November jihadist bloodshed in Paris.

Last month, French police broke up a jihadist terror ring which was allegedly planning to attack Paris on December 1 and had researched a Christmas market on the prestigious Champs-Elysees avenue among its potential targets.

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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.