Hollande leads French mourning for Paris attacks dead
Families of the dead from the country’s worst ever terror attack will join some of the hundreds of injured at the Invalides, the gilded 17th-century complex in Paris that houses a military hospital and Napoleon’s tomb.
Hollande has called on the French to display the red, white and blue French flag in their homes and they were selling fast in Paris ahead of the ceremony.
But some of the victims’ families are boycotting the ceremony, saying the government failed to take sufficient measures to protect the nation in the wake of the jihadist shootings 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 killed at the Bataclan concert hall on November 13, wrote on Facebook.
The attacks two weeks ago on bars, restaurants, a concert hall and the national stadium were claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group.
Hollande is expected to make a 20-minute address at the one-hour ceremony, which will be televised live.
Reflecting the solemnity of the occasion, Liberation and Le Parisien dailies listed all the victims on their front pages Friday.
Hollande has spent the week in a whirlwind diplomatic bid to build a broad military coalition to defeat IS, although his efforts have met with limited success.
The marathon has taken him from Paris to Washington to Moscow in just a few days.
Hollande said Thursday that he and President Vladimir Putin had agreed to coordinate air strikes against IS.
“The strikes against Daesh (IS) will be intensified and be the object of coordination,” Hollande said, adding that the military action would focus on the transportation of oil.
– ‘Natural partner’ –
The future role of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, however, remained a deeply divisive issue following the talks in the Kremlin, as Putin said the Syrian army was a “natural partner in the fight against terrorism”.
Hollande however argued that Assad “has no place in the future of Syria.”
On Friday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said he could envisage Syrian regime troops taking part in the anti-IS fight.
In order to fight IS, “there must be two measures: bombings… and ground troops who cannot be ours, but who should be of the (opposition) Free Syrian Army, Sunni Arab forces, and why not regime forces too,” Fabius told RTL radio.
Fabius later clarified his position, telling AFP he meant that Syrian government troops could take part in the fight against IS only if the regime changed.
It could happen “within the context of a political transition — and only in this context,” he said.
Hollande’s diplomatic drive has secured some offers of support from France’s allies but also run into coolness and complications, made tougher by a row over Turkey’s downing of a Russian warplane on the Syrian-Turkish border.
The French leader has the support of Britain, whose Prime Minister David Cameron set out his case on Thursday for air strikes against IS in Syria, telling British lawmakers that the country could not “sub-contract” its security to allies.
He has also been backed by Germany, which has offered Tornado reconnaissance jets, a naval frigate, satellite images and aerial refuelling to help in the fight against IS.
Germany is also promising to send 650 soldiers to Mali to provide some relief to French forces fighting jihadists there.
But Hollande received a vague response from Italy, and got few concrete promises from President Barack Obama in Washington on Tuesday.
The United States is reluctant to intensify military action in Syria without a clear strategy in place, and will not work with Russia while it is bombing other rebel groups in what Washington sees as an attempt to bolster Assad.
As France mourns its dead, an international manhunt is still on for two key suspects in the attacks — Salah Abdeslam, who played a key logistical role in the wave of terror, and Mohamed Abrini, seen with Abdeslam two days before the November 13 atrocities.