Thursday 23 March 2017

Paris falls silent on anniversary of horrific Isil attacks

People console each other at a memorial outside the Bataclan concert hall in Paris yesterday (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
People console each other at a memorial outside the Bataclan concert hall in Paris yesterday (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Elaine Ganley

A sombre silence marked France's anniversary commemorations of co-ordinated attacks on Paris which killed 130 people a year ago yesterday.

Under heavy security, President Francois Hollande unveiled a plaque outside the Stade de France "in memory of Manuel Dias", pulling away a French flag covering it on a wall at one of the entrances to the French national stadium where Mr Dias was killed on November 13 by a suicide bomber. He was the first victim of the attacks.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo joined the president at six other sites where crowds were set upon by Isil militants as they ate, drank or enjoyed music.

The only voices heard during the ceremonies were the reading of the names of the victims and the son of Mr Dias.

Three teams of extremists from neighbouring Belgium targeted six bars and eateries, turning scenes of Friday night revelry into carnage.

At the Stade de France, Michael Dias said his father - an immigrant from Portugal - was "living proof that integration is possible, necessary" to end the madness of violence carried out by those who felt excluded.

The final stop, the Bataclan concert hall - which reopened on Saturday with a concert by pop star Sting - was the site of the bloodiest and longest attack.

Ninety people were killed by three attackers who also took a group of people hostage.

The youngest and oldest victims of the night of horror were a 17-year-old and a 68-year-old - both killed at the Bataclan.

Families of victims, security and rescue forces and some still trying to heal were among those present at the ceremonies.

In addition to those killed, nine people remain hospitalised from the attacks and others are paralysed.

The government says more than 600 people are still receiving psychological treatment after the attacks.

The remembrances come after the Sting concert that reopened the refurbished Bataclan concert hall. Sting asked concert-goers in fluent French to observe a minute's silence as he opened the show.

"We've got two important things to do tonight," the 65-year-old said.

"First, to remember and honour those who lost their lives in the attacks a year ago - and to celebrate the life and the music of this historic venue. We shall not forget them."

Elodie Suigo, who lost six friends in the attack, said that it was a hard night, even though she loved the music.

"It was difficult going through that door. I don't think I was the only one," she said.

"We cannot say it was a magical moment because of everything that changed in our lives. But Sting is a really great man."

Irish Independent

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