Paris: France marked two years Monday since its worst ever terror attacks, releasing colourful balloons into the sky to remember the 130 people killed on a Friday night out in Paris.
President Emmanuel Macron laid wreaths at the six locations where gunmen and suicide bombers struck on 13 November 2015, targeting the national stadium as well as bars, restaurants and the Bataclan concert hall.
Two members of Eagles of Death Metal — the Californian band who were on stage at the Bataclan when the carnage began — performed a surprise mini-concert near the venue where 90 people were massacred.
Lead singer Jesse Hughes was visibly moved as he handed white roses to families of the victims after singing "Save a Prayer", the song the band had just finished playing when the gunfire began.
"It is difficult to not to remember the people who were taken from us like our friend Nick Alexander (the band's merchandise manager) and so many others," Hughes told reporters.
"We watched people give their lives for their friends and we were able to bear witness to that," he added.
"We have a burden of responsibility to make certain that everyone knows that is the kind of love that exists in this world."
Macron and his wife Brigitte joined relatives of the victims as they released dozens of multi-coloured balloons in honour of the dead.
"I've never been back inside," said a Bataclan survivor who gave his name only as Patrice.
"But it's important to come, for all the victims — those who did not come out alive, and all the injured."
The Paris attacks were among a series of jihadist assaults that have killed more than 240 people in France since 2015, starting with the shooting at satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.
Victims 'left behind'
Macron spoke with victims' relatives at each of the attack sites — but some refused to meet him in protest at what they say is a lack of government support.
"No one has been speaking to us since Emmanuel Macron got rid of the office for victims' support," said Michael Dias, whose father Manuel was killed by a suicide bomber outside the stadium.
"We have been completely left behind," he told the BFM news channel.
Elisabeth Boissinot, whose daughter Chloe was killed at the Carillon bar, declined her invitation to what she criticised on Facebook as a "victory lap" by the president at the time when she said victims had been "forgotten".
The Bataclan reopened last year, revellers have returned to the bars that were hit, and the huge piles of flowers mourning the dead have been cleared away.
But some locals expressed regret that relatively few Parisians turned out to mark the anniversary of the attacks.
"Maybe life conquers all, but this loss of memory is very exasperating," said 86-year-old Francine Best.
"The solidarity that allowed this neighbourhood to bounce back so well has disappeared, bit by bit."
The attacks profoundly shook France, triggering a state of emergency that was lifted only this month after Macron signed a controversial new anti-terror law.
The law gives authorities sweeping powers to search homes, shut down places of worship and restrict the movements of suspected extremists.
Some 7,000 troops meanwhile remain on the streets under an anti-terror operation known as Sentinelle, carrying out patrols and guarding vulnerable sites such as tourist hotspots.
The sprawling police investigation into the Paris attacks continues with Salah Abdeslam, the only man directly involved in the attacks to have survived, awaiting trial.
Abdeslam, a 28-year-old petty delinquent turned jihadist, 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.
Published Date: Nov 13, 2017 21:06 PM | Updated Date: Nov 13, 2017 21:06 PM