France marks second anniversary of Paris attacks
President Macron and officials as well as victims’ families honour the 130 people killed
Imam Hassen Chalghoumi, left, and French author Marek Halter, centre, with a group called “Muslims Against Terrorism” in front of the Bataclan venue, Paris, on Monday. Photograph: Ian Langsdon/EPA
Families of the victims of France’s deadliest terror attacks stood in silence and tears as President Emmanuel Macron and other officials honoured the 130 people killed two years ago.
Security was tight but low-profile for the memorial events – part of the new normal in France since November 13th, 2015.
Outside the Stade de France national stadium, Mr Macron and the mayor of the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis placed a wreath of red, white and blue flowers to honour Manuel Dias, the Portuguese immigrant killed by a suicide bomber – the first victim of the night’s violence.
The commemorations continued at Paris cafes, where city officials read out the names of the 29 people gunned down while dining, drinking and enjoying the balmy night.
Dozens of families and Parisians gathered outside the Bataclan concert hall, where the attacks took their most chilling turn, as Islamic State extremists opened fire on a dancing crowd and held hundreds hostage in an hours-long standoff with police. Ninety people were killed.
Residents recalled the blasts of explosive belts and assault rifles, and described the wariness that has lingered since.
Hundreds were wounded; some survivors are disabled for life, and many have deep psychological scars.
On November 13th, 2015, France “entered a new era of terrorism”, national police chief Eric Morvan said on BFM television on Monday.
The attacks ushered in nearly two years of state of emergency, replaced just two weeks ago with a tough law allowing police wider latitude against anyone suspected of links to radicalism.
The state of emergency did not prevent subsequent extremist violence, including a lorry attack on holiday revellers on the Mediterranean shore of Nice.
While Islamic State extremists have been ousted from their Syrian stronghold of Raqqa where the Paris attacks were planned, French authorities remain on guard, and the French military remains active in the US-led military coalition against Islamic State.
“The threat level obviously remains high,” prime minister Edouard Philippe said on France-Inter radio on Monday.
All but one of the November 2015 attackers were killed.
‘Zones of mystery’
France’s counterterrorism prosecutor says authorities are still looking for suspects involved, and that “zones of mystery” remain about the attacks.
François Hollande, France’s president at the time, described hearing the explosion that killed Mr Dias from inside the Stade de France, where he was attending a France-Germany football match with German chancellor Angela Merkel.
Mr Hollande told France-2 television he did not want to flee “so as not to let anyone believe there was a risk to the public”.
He said that decision “surely saved lives”.