France remains on high alert after violent, traumatic week

Armed police stationed across Paris as public rallies and vigils recall victims of terror attacks

France remained on high alert on Saturday as rallies took place in cities across the country and the authorities assessed the terror risk after a violent, traumatic week.

The morning after two sieges ended with the deaths of three men suspected of carrying out separate attacks in the city, interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve said France remained on its highest alert and that 320 extra soldiers had been deployed in Paris.

Police are still searching for the partner and alleged accomplice of Amedi Coulibaly, who died after a siege at a kosher supermarket in Paris which resulted in the deaths of four hostages .

Hayat Boumeddiene (26) who is said to be "armed and dangerous" and is wanted in connection with Coulibaly's killing of a policewoman in southern Paris on Thursday.

Armed police

Armed police remain stationed outside transport hubs, newspaper offices, department stores and places of worship.

At Porte de Vincennes, where a siege at a kosher supermarket resulted in the deaths of four hostages and the hostage-taker Amedi Coulibaly, roads and metro stations re-opened and a semblance of ordinary life was restored.

Neighbours and members of the Jewish community came to pay their respects to the dead, many of them leaving flowers at a police cordon a few metres from the shop’s shuttered door.

Brothers Chérif and Said Kouachi, suspected of having killed 12 journalists and policemen in an attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine on Wednesday, were killed by police during a shoot-out that ended a separate stand-off in the town of Dammartin-En-Goële, northeast of Paris.

Vigils held

Rallies and vigils have continued to take place across France. Huge crowds packed the Promenade des Anglais in Nice while in Pau, a city of 80,000 in habitants in the south, the mayor’s office said 40,000 people turned out for a silent hommage to the victims on Saturday morning.

A major rally is planned for Paris tomorrow, with political leaders across the spectrum due to attend. They will be joined by a number offoreign leaders, including Taoiseach Enda Kenny, German chancellor Angela Merkel, British prime minister David Cameron, Mariano Rajoy of Spain and Italy's Matteo Renzi.

Prime minister Manuel Valls called on the public to turn out in big numbers, saying the demonstration would show the French people's "love of freedom and tolerance." Security is being reinforced for the event, with the defence ministry saying the military presence on the streets of the capital will rise to 1,350 soldiers.

Hostage accounts

Surviving hostages’ accounts continue to shed light on how the two sieges played out, meanwhile. At the printing plant in Dammartin, a 26-year-old grapher designer named Lilian managed to hide under a sink in the upstairs canteen, Paris prosecutor François Molins said. The employee communicated with police outside via text message, informing them of the building’s layout and the movements of the Kouachi brothers.

A salesman called Didier told how he inadvertently shook the hand of one of the terrorists after arriving at the complex for a meeting. He said the fugitive told him: “Go, we do not kill civilians.”

At the HyperCasher supermarket siege, a father and son hid in the shop’s refrigeration unit, their relatives told the AFP news agency. The father, Ilan, removed his jacket and wrapped his son in it to keep him warm.

When Ilan’s mother realised that her son and grandson were hidden, she gave his mobile phone number to the police, who used it to track the location of the man, his son and three other hostages who were in the same location.

Mr Molins said this knowledge may have contributed to their survival when police finally stormed the shop and killed Coulibaly.

Coulibaly rant

Recordings of Coulibaly ranting at hostages in the kosher store also emerged this morning. According to RTL radio, Coulibaly railed against the French state and mocked his hostages for paying taxes. He said: “They must stop attacking the Islamic State, stop unveiling our women, stop putting our brothers in prison for nothing at all.”

The attacker went on: “It is you who is financing (the government). You pay taxes.” Coulibaly had refused to speak to RTL when it called the supermarket, but he didn’t hang up correctly, allowing the station to listen in on his conversations.

Coulibaly and his girlfriend spoke with the Kouachi brothers “500 times” over the telephone, the prosecutor’s office said.