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)