France pays trib­ute to Paris dead two years on


PARIS: France, still on alert against mil­i­tant at­tacks, paid trib­ute on Mon­day to 130 peo­ple killed when gun­men and sui­cide bombers at­tacked Paris two years ago.

Flow­ers were laid and vic­tims’ names read out at oth­er­wise si­lent homage cer­e­monies in the pres­ence of Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron at the six sites struck on Nov. 13, 2015, in at­tacks for which Daesh claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity.

Macron, whose gov­ern­ment has im­ple­mented leg­is­la­tion giv­ing po­lice and in­tel­li­gence agents wider wire­tap, search and ar­rest pow­ers in an at­tempt to avert more at­tacks, was ac­com­pa­nied by other politi­cians in­clud­ing Fran­cois Hol­lande, pres­i­dent at the time of the Paris at­tacks.

More than 240 peo­ple have died in the past three years in at­tacks com­mis­sioned or in­spired by Daesh, which has urged fol­low­ers to at­tack France and other coun­tries in­volved in mil­i­tary ef­forts to oust it from swathes of Syria and Iraq.

Dozens more have been killed in sim­i­lar at­tacks in Eu­rope, pri­mar­ily in Bel­gium, Britain, and also in Spain more re­cently.

“The threat level re­mains high,” Prime Min­is­ter Edouard Philippe told pub­lic ra­dio sta­tion France In­ter.

The gov­ern­ment said 30 planned at­tacks have been thwarted in the past two years. Po­lice and in­tel­li­gence ser­vices are work­ing flat-out to cope with the chal­lenge of re­li­gious rad­i­cal­iza­tion and fur­ther at­tacks.

There has also been the pas­sage of more strin­gent French leg­is­la­tion, with the most re­cent law, ef­fec­tive this month, giv­ing po­lice ex­tended pow­ers to search prop­er­ties, con­duct elec­tronic eaves­drop­ping and shut mosques or other lo­ca­tions sus­pected of preach­ing ha­tred.

Con­ser­va­tive politi­cians say the reg­u­la­tions do not go far enough, while hu­man rights groups ex­press alarm, say­ing se­cu­rity forces are be­ing given too much free­dom to cur­tail rights.

Hun­dreds of French cit­i­zens have left France, a tra­di­tion­ally Ro­man Catholic coun­try where about one in six peo­ple are Mus­lims, to fight as mil­i­tants for Daesh.

The sprawl­ing po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the Paris at­tacks con­tin­ues fol­low­ing an in­ter­na­tional man­hunt for Salah Ab­deslam, the only man di­rectly in­volved in the at­tacks to have sur­vived.

Ab­deslam, a 28-year-old petty delin­quent-turned­mil­i­tant, was cap­tured in a dra­matic po­lice op­er­a­tion in Brus­sels in March 2016 af­ter four months on the run.

Po­lice had hoped he could pro­vide a wealth of in­for­ma­tion about the plan­ning and ex­e­cu­tion of the at­tacks, but he has so far re­fused to co­op­er­ate with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“What wor­ries us are plans for ter­ror­ist at­tacks pre­pared by teams that are still op­er­at­ing in fight­ing zones in Syria and Iraq,” Lau­rent Nunez, head of France’s in­ter­nal in­tel­li­gence agency DGSI told French daily Le Fi­garo in a rare in­ter­view.

French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron, his wife Brigitte Macron (right), Paris Mayor Anne Hi­dalgo re­lease bal­loons at Paris 11th district town hall on Mon­day, dur­ing a cer­e­mony held for the vic­tims of the Paris at­tacks. (AFP)

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