‘Paris united’: France mourns victims on anniversary of terror attacks

France on Tuesday marked three years since its worst ever terror attacks, when jihadists killed 130 people in Paris and injured hundreds of others.

'Paris united': France mourns victims on anniversary of terror attacks
Photo: AFP

“Three years later, Paris remembers again and always, more determined than ever to remain standing and united,” tweeted Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo on Tuesday, along with a picture of Paris Town Hall where banners reading “Paris united” and “Paris remembers” had been hung.

On Tuesday morning wreaths were to be laid at the six locations where gunmen and suicide bombers struck on November 13, 2015, targeting the national stadium as well as bars, restaurants and the Bataclan concert hall.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo and several other ministers in the government were present along with the families of the victims who were killed at each location.

The ceremonies, as requested by the families of the victims were to be low-key.

A cortege will leave the Stade de France, in Saint-Denis to the north of Paris where a suicide bomber killed one person before heading to the bars and cafes and then the Bataclan music hall where two years ago plaques were unveiled bearing the names of all those who were killed.

In the afternoon the charity Life for Paris will hold a ceremony in memory of the victims at the town hall in the 11th arrondissement.

Electronic billboards around Pars beared the slogan “Fluctuat Nec Mergitur” – the city's motto which became a defiant slogan after the attacks and means “shaken but not sunk.” 

The attacks profoundly shook France and left the country under a state of emergency that lasted two years.

Some 7,000 troops meanwhile remain on the streets under an anti-terror operation known as Sentinelle, carrying out patrols and guarding vulnerable sites such as tourist hotspots.

The Paris attacks were among a series of jihadist assaults that have left more than 240 people dead in France since 2015, starting with the shooting at satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

The sprawling police investigation into the Paris attacks continues following an international manhunt for Salah Abdeslam, the only man directly involved in the attacks to have survived.

Abdeslam, a 28-year-old petty delinquent turned jihadist, was captured in a dramatic police operation in Brussels in March 2016 after four months on the run.

Police had hoped he could provide a wealth of information about the planning and execution of the attacks, but he has so far refused to cooperate with the investigation.

It is unclear when he will face trial.

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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.