Saturday 3 December 2016

France pays tribute to victims of Paris terror attacks

Published 27/11/2015 | 10:26

People attend a ceremony in the courtyard of the Invalides in Paris (AP)
People attend a ceremony in the courtyard of the Invalides in Paris (AP)

A national memorial service has been held in France for the victims of the Paris terror attacks, while President Francois Hollande vowed to destroy the "army of fanatics" responsible.

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The name and age of each of the 130 victims was read aloud in a sombre ceremony inside the Invalides national monument.

Most, as Mr Hollande noted, were under the age of 35, killed while enjoying a mild Friday night of music, food, drinks or sports. The youngest was 17, the oldest 68.

Throughout Paris, French flags fluttered in windows and on buses in uncharacteristic displays of patriotism in response to Paris' second deadly terror attack this year.

But the mood was grim, and the locked-down ceremony lacked the defiance of January, when a million people poured through the streets to honour those killed in the Charlie Hebdo attack.

Mr Hollande, who in January locked arms with world leaders in a show of global unity against terrorism, sat on his own in a hard-backed chair in the cavernous Invalides courtyard, the assembled mourners behind him as victims' names were recited.

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

The courtyard went silent after the reading of the names finished, broken finally by a mournful cello. Mr Hollande stared straight ahead, before finally rising to speak.

He said: "To all of you, I solemnly promise that France will do everything to destroy the army of fanatics who committed these crimes."

The speech was dedicated above all to the dead and France's young people.

Mr Hollande went on: "The ordeal has scarred us all, but it will make us stronger. I have confidence in the generation to come.

"Generations before have also had their identity forged in the flower of youth.

"The attack of November 13 will remain in the memory of today's youth as a terrible initiation in the hardness of the world. But also as an invitation to combat it by creating a new commitment."

He noted that many of the dead, especially those at the Eagles of Death Metal show at the Bataclan, had careers in music - a music he said the attackers found intolerable.

Mr Hollande said: "It was this harmony that they wanted to break, shatter. It was this joy that they wanted to bury with the blast of their bombs.

"Well, they will not stop it. We will multiply the songs, the concerts, the shows. We will keep going to the stadiums, and especially our beloved national stadium in Saint-Denis.

"We will participate in sports gatherings great and small. And we will commune in the best of emotions, without being troubled by our differences, our origins, our colours, our convictions, our beliefs, our religions.

"Because we are a single and unified nation, with the same values."

Press Association

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