The French tricolour hung solemnly from the balconies and windows along misty Parisian streets Friday as some 2,000 people gathered at the city’s military museum to pay homage to the victims of the November 13 terrorist attacks.
In a mid-morning ceremony, the names and ages of the 130 victims of the attacks were read aloud. They were killed when a group of terrorists attacked a national stadium, a concert hall and a string of bars and restaurants on a Friday evening two weeks ago.
Many of the deaths occurred at the Bataclan music hall, where people were gathered for a rock concert, and on the crowded terraces of restaurants in the 10th and 11th arrondissments near the Boulevard Voltaire and the popular Canal St Martin.
The victims included an architect, photographer, television programme editor, students, musicians, a lawyer, and many others from some 20 different countries. While many were young – the average age of the victims was 35 – there were also couples and parents.
“They represented life, and because they represented life, they were killed,” said French President Francois Hollande. “They were beaten down because they represented France. They were massacred because they represented liberty.”
“They were the youth of France, the youth of a free people who love culture. This was the music that was unbearable to the terrorist. This is the joy that they want to bury with the explosions of their bombs. To respond, we will multiply the songs, the concerts; we will continue going to the stadium,” he said.
Family members of the victims were present in the courtyard of the Invalides museum and war veterans complex, as photographs of their loved ones flashed across a distant screen. Some of the people wounded in the attacks were also present, a few still attended by medical personnel as they lay covered in blankets in hospital gurneys or bundled in wheelchairs.
Hollande began the ceremony with a moment of silence after standing at attention to a military band playing La Marseillaise national anthem. Singers Nolwenn Leroy, Camelia Jordana et Yael Naim sang a rendition of Quand on a que l’amour (When Love Is All You Have) followed by Natalie Dessay singing Perlimpinpin – both French classics.
During a brief speech, Hollande called for tolerance and said the country would not succumb to fear or hatred. “The terrorists want to divide us, to make us oppose one another, to pit us against one another. They will fail.”
But he also promised to destroy the “army of fanatics that committed these crimes,” saying France had been the target of an act of war planned from afar. In the past weeks, France has sharply ramped up its military efforts against the Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for the attacks,
Investigators are also trying to track down accomplices to the attackers and one suspect who is still at large.
In Belgium, federal prosecutors said they had detained two more people on Thursday in relation to the Paris attacks, on top of five suspects previously arrested in the country.
One suspect was detained in Brussels and a potential witness was apprehended during a raid in the eastern city of Verviers, federal prosecution spokesman Eric Van Der Sypt told dpa.
Many of the perpetrators involved in the Paris killings had ties to Brussels. Belgian authorities have been looking in particular for one at-large suspect, Salah Abdeslam, a French resident of Brussels and brother of a suicide bomber in the Paris attacks.