France paid tribute on Friday to the 130 mostly young people killed while they were enjoying themselves in Paris two weeks ago by gunmen and suicide bombers in the most deadly attacks the nation has seen since World War Two. Blue-white-and-red French flags hung from the windows of public buildings and private homes as hundreds of survivors and relatives of the dead joined political leaders for a remembrance ceremony at the military museum Les Invalides in the capital.
The militant group DAESH has claimed responsibility for the Nov. 13 attacks, which targeted cafes, restaurants, a sports stadium and a rock concert. More than 350 people were wounded and nearly 100 of them remain in hospital.
Under a wintry sky, the names and ages of the 130 victims were read out. A majority were under 35 and they came from all over France and from 17 other countries. In a poignant but defiant speech, President Francois Hollande vowed to destroy DAESH and urged his compatriots to help combat the group simply by continuing to go to bars, restaurants and cultural and sporting events and to enjoy the simple pleasures he said the militants hated. "I solemnly promise you all that France will do everything to defeat the army of fanatics who have committed these crimes, that she will act tirelessly to protect her children," he said. "The terrorists want to divide us, to oppose us, to pit us against one another. They will fail. They have the cult of death, we have the love of life," he said. Hollande also vowed that France would respond to the "army of fanatics" which carried out the Paris attacks with more songs, concerts and shows, as the nation paused to pay homage to the victims. "We will not give in either to fear or to hate," he said. Hollande said the Nov. 13 attacks were part of a chain stretching back to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, and he noted that many other countries - including, this month alone, Mali and Tunisia - had been hit by militant groups.
Most of the assailants in the Paris attacks killed themselves using suicide vests or were killed by police but French and Belgian authorities are still hunting others suspected of involvement or possibly plotting new attacks. Last week the French parliament backed a three-month extension of a state of emergency declared immediately after the attacks to allow security forces greater scope in combating militant groups. France has also stepped up its aerial bombing campaign of DAESH targets in Syria. This week, Hollande held separate talks with the leaders of the United States, Russia, Britain, Germany and Italy on how to crush the militants. "We will defeat this enemy. Together. With our forces, those of the republic. With our arms, those of democracy. With our institutions, with international law," a somber Hollande said.
However, a handful of the victims' families boycotted Friday's ceremony, saying the government failed to take sufficient measures to protect the nation in the wake of the militant shootings at Charlie Hebdo satirical newspaper and a Jewish supermarket in Paris in January. "Thanks Mr President, politicians, but we don't want your handshake or your tribute, and we hold you partly responsible for what has happened!" Emmanuelle Prevost, whose brother was one of the 90 slaughtered at the Bataclan concert hall on November 13, wrote on Facebook. Reflecting the solemnity of the ceremony, Liberation and Le Parisien newspapers listed all the victims on their front pages Friday in stark black and white print.