Paris attacks: Hollande vows to defeat ‘the cult of death’

Names of 130 dead and ages are read out at sombre memorial ceremony

Parisians pay their respects to the victims of the recent attacks with flags and flowers. Video: Reuters


French president Francois Hollande has promised the families of those killed and wounded in the Paris attacks that he will do everything to destroy the “army of fanatics” responsible.

Mr Hollande spoke in front of his government, families of the victims and soldiers at a memorial service inside the courtyard of the Invalides national monument.

The names of the 130 dead and their ages were read aloud in a sombre ceremony.

Overwhelmingly young adults in their 20s and 30s, nearly all the victims were killed at a rock concert or on the terraces of bars and restaurants of central Paris.

Mr Hollande was sitting alone in a simple chair in the Invalides courtyard, an assembled crowd of mourners behind him.

“I solemnly promise you all that France will do everything to defeat the army of fanatics who have committed these crimes, that she will act tirelessly to protect her children,” he said.

“The terrorists want to divide us, to oppose us, to pit us against one another. They will fail. They have the cult of death, we have the love of life,” he said.

Hollande said the November 13th attacks were part of a chain stretching back to the September 11th, 2001 attacks in the United States, and he noted that many other countries - including, this month alone, Mali and Tunisia - had been hit by militant groups.

“We will defeat this enemy. Together. With our forces, those of the republic. With our arms, those of democracy. With our institutions, with international law,” a sombre Hollande said.

Windows across France were draped with French flags in an uncharacteristic display of patriotism, but the locked-down ceremony lacked the defiance of January, when a million people marched through the streets to honour those killed in the Charlie Hebdo attacks.

France’s military provided the only images of Friday’s ceremony, and no one without an invitation was permitted inside.

Three teams of suicide bombers and gunmen struck across Paris on November 13th beginning at the national stadium — where Mr Hollande was among the spectators — and ending in the storming of the Bataclan concert venue.

Before the ceremony, the parents of Nick Alexander, who died in the Paris attacks, said “words cannot express the sadness we feel at the loss of our precious Nick” as they prepared to attend a memorial service in the city.

Barry and Sheelagh Alexander said they were thankful for the “outpouring of love from around the world” for their 36-year-old son, who was murdered in the Bataclan theatre massacre.

The merchandise seller was one of 89 people killed when gunmen stormed the building midway through a rock concert.

His parents said in statement: “Words cannot express the sadness we feel at the loss of our precious Nick.

“This is just the beginning of a long road where we will have to get used to the absence of his physical presence around us — a physical presence that we loved so much, that made us laugh, that we loved being with, and always held us close wherever he was.

“We will get through this with the love and strength of our beloved family, friends and colleagues, and the support of so many people we have never even met.

“The outpouring of love from around the world has been a great comfort to us and makes us even more proud to have had Nick as our son. We will love and miss him forever.”

The majority of the deaths were at a gig by American band Eagles of Death Metal, who were on stage when a commando of Islamist gunmen began firing indiscriminately into the crowd.

In a video interview with Vice News, singer Jesse Hughes broke down as he described the heroism and selflessness of the fans and staff caught up in the horror.

Of Mr Alexander, from Colchester, he said: “(Nick) stayed quiet and never called for help until he bled out, because he didn’t want anyone else to get hurt.”

However at least one family has called for a boycott of the memorial, suggesting a more concerted effort to tackle terrorism in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks could have stopped the killings a fortnight ago. Concerns have also been raised over alleged failures by French authorities to monitor those going to and returning from Syria.

Emma Prevost, sister of Francois-Xavier who died in the Bataclan, wrote on Facebook: “So no thank you Mr President, politicians, your tribute we do not want.

“You were partly responsible for what happened to us. It was earlier that there was a need to act. The attacks in January should have been sufficient.”