France marks five years since Paris attacks with silent ceremonies

French PM and mayor of Paris attend events held at Bataclan and other sites targeted by gunmen and suicide bombers

 French prime minister, Jean Castex, and Paris mayor, Anne Hidalgo, pay tribute outside the Bataclan concert venue.
The French prime minister, Jean Castex, and Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo pay tribute outside the Bataclan. Photograph: Alexis Sciard/via Zuma Press/Rex/Shutterstock
The French prime minister, Jean Castex, and Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo pay tribute outside the Bataclan. Photograph: Alexis Sciard/via Zuma Press/Rex/Shutterstock
in Paris

Last modified on Wed 18 Nov 2020 05.48 EST

France has marked five years to the day since terrorists carried out a series of coordinated terrorist attacks across Paris, killing 130 people.

The prime minister, Jean Castex, and the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, carried out a series of silent ceremonies at each of the sites where the gunmen and suicide bombers loyal to Islamic State struck on 13 November 2015.

It was France’s worst peacetime attack and led to a wave of international sympathy for the traumatised nation.

On Friday, Castex and Hidalgo laid wreaths at the seven sites where the terrorists struck. The ceremonies were brief and relatively discreet. This year the public had been advised to remain at home under the Covid-19 lockdown rules, but several people turned out anyway to place flowers and cards in memory of the victims.

Friday’s commemorations came as France remained on high alert after three recent attacks by Islamist extremists, including the beheading of high-school teacher Samuel Paty and the killing of three people in a church in Nice.

In 2015, the first attack happened at 9.15pm on Friday 13 November outside the Stade de France during an international football match. Shortly afterwards, another group of heavily armed terrorists drove around the capital’s trendy districts north of the Seine shooting at crowded bars, cafés and restaurants.

Another group stormed the Bataclan during a concert attended by 1,500 people, taking members of the audience hostage and killing 90 people.

Ten months earlier, in January 2015, terrorists had killed 12 people in an attack on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo after it published caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad considered offensive to Muslims. In the following two days, five more people were killed by a terrorist gunman, including four people at a Jewish supermarket.

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, has recently come under fierce criticism for proposing a new law on “Islamist separatism”. The Élysée says the legislation –to be presented to the Assemblée Nationale at the beginning of next month – is aimed at strengthening the country’s secular traditions and preventing the radicalisation of future terrorists. Critics have accused the president and government of targeting the wider Muslim community.

After Paty’s killing, police raided the homes of individuals and offices of a number of Muslim organisations that had no link to the murder in order to “send a message”, according to interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, who also announced the Collective Against Islamophobia in France was being disbanded.

As protests against Macron erupted in many Islamic countries, including Bangladesh and Iran, along with threats to boycott French goods, Darmanin provoked further outrage by questioning why supermarkets had specific halal and kosher food sections.

On Friday, Franck Riester, a delegate minister in charge of foreign trade and economic attractiveness, told foreign journalists this comment was Darmanin’s “personal” view. He insisted the government was not targeting French Muslims and hit back at criticism of its response to the terrorist attacks.

“France is under attack and as we have seen so is Austria and some Islamic countries, so this is a common fight against terrorism,” Riester said.

“We will continue to defend its citizens and those on its soil and defend our values and will not be influenced or pressured by anyone. I absolutely don’t accept the position of those who say this (terrorism) is France’s fault or the fruit of its politics and choices. That’s the world turned upside down.”