In silence and mourning, France marked five years since 130 people were killed by Islamist extremists targeting Bataclan’s concert halls, Paris cafes and national stadium in a series of coordinated attacks.
The night of the massacre on November 13, 2015, in which 130 people were killed and 350 wounded, was France’s deadliest peacetime attack that deeply shook the nation.
This led to intensified French military action against extremists abroad and a security measure at home.
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Five years later, Prime Minister Jean Castex led silent ceremonies in several places targeted by coordinated attackers around the French capital: Stade de France in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis, Bataclan and five cafes in eastern Paris where firearms shattered softly Friday night.
The public was unable to attend this year’s Memorial Day due to France’s partial virus freeze.
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The great horror of the attacks, claimed by extremists from the IS group, has left scars that have still not healed. After five years, the country is once again on its highest security warning after a series of attacks accused of Islamist radicals.
Friday’s anniversary comes with France still plagued by three attacks in recent weeks: a knife attack outside Charlie Hebdo’s former office every week, the beheading of a teacher and a fatal stabbing at a nice church.
In the last five years, 20 attacks have been carried out on French soil, 19 plots have failed and 61 have been persecuted.
There has been a growing trend of attacks carried out by isolated individuals, previously unknown to the intelligence services, who are inspired by jihadist propaganda and carry out attacks with cold weapons that need little preparation.
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But the threat of an attack planned outside France – which was the case on November 13, 2015 – remains serious.
“Just because [the IS group] has suffered a military defeat does not mean that its military capabilities have been destroyed, says a French official involved in the fight against terrorism, who asked not to be appointed.
Between 100 and 200 French jihadists are still believed to be in the former IS group’s strongholds in northern Iraq and Syria, and it would be an “illusion” to believe that they were not able to secretly return to France, the official added.
In January 2015, Islamist armed personnel massacred at Charlie Hebdo’s satirical weekly, claiming that they avenged the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
Despite its defiant reputation, the newspaper published the cartoons to mark the start of the trial of suspected accomplices in the murders in September.
In the wake of this move, a Pakistani-born man injured two people with a meat splitter on September 25 outside Charlie Hebdo’s former office.
Teacher Samuel Paty, who had shown the drawings in his class, was beheaded outside his school on October 16 by an Islamist radical from Chechnya. And on October 29, a Tunisian man recently killed three people with a knife in a church in Nice.
The attack opened painful debates in France over the integration of the country’s Muslim population – the largest in Europe – and also prompted tougher rhetoric from President Emmanuel Macron against radical Islamism.
In turn, Macron’s defiant stance sparked a wave of protests in some Muslim countries and called for a boycott of French goods.
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On Thursday, the IS group claimed responsibility for a bomb attack on Western diplomats who took part in a ceasefire ceremony in Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah. It came weeks after a knife-wielding attacker injured a guard at the French consulate in Jeddah.
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Security sources say the terrorist threat is higher in connection with the current Charlie Hebdo trial and a new trial over the Paris attacks, which will open at the beginning of next year.
These hearings hold up “a kind of background noise” with the risk of “support measures for those” facing trial, the security source said.
The 2021 trial of the Paris attacks will only see one of the suspected perpetrators in the bridge – the French-Belgian Salah Abdeslam.
Nineteen other suspects accused of providing various logistical support will face him, although five are believed to be dead in Iraq or Syria will be tried in absentia.
The suspected coordinator of the attacks – Belgian Abdelhamid Abaaoud who fired indiscriminately on packed café terraces that night – was killed five days later in a police attack on the Paris suburb of Saint Denis.
( Jowharwith AFP, AP)