Paris shooting: Disbelief and show of solidarity by French community in Singapore

SINGAPORE - The French community in Singapore have expressed disbelief at the drama that has been unfolding in their home country since Wednesday, when gunmen killed 12 people in an attack on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo's offices in Paris.

"When I first heard about the news I was completely shocked. There was immense sadness," said Mr Bertrand Fouquoire, chief editor of the Singapore edition of news site Le Petit Journal.

"The economists and cartoonists...were not anonymous victims but people who I knew as a reader and listener, so I could imagine the talent and their life and how terrible it was (they were lost)," said the 52-year-old, who has lived in Singapore for the past seven years.

Mr Stan Barbe, 34, said he found out about the incident through a WhatsApp chat with friends in France. "While we're living overseas we see it from the outside, but I think everyone has friends or family members living in Paris."

"France is supposed to be a peaceful and safe country like Singapore, so to see this kind of thing happening is pretty scary," said the banker, who has lived in Singapore for five years.

"It's not just journalists who have been killed, I feel like French democracy is under attack," he added.

Condolences have poured in from diverse groups, with a few bouquets of flowers laid at the foot of the French flag at the French Embassy at Cluny Park Road, near the Singapore Botanic Gardens. French flags in public buildings here are also at half mast for three days of mourning, said the embassy's Deputy Chief of Mission Laurence Beau.

"There have been tweets and messages by the highest Singaporean authorities as well, including President Tan himself, and we are appreciative of the support," said Mrs Beau.

On Thursday night, some 500 French citizens gathered in the Embassy grounds to observe a minute of silence at 7pm. It was timed to coincide with the noon vigil in France, and was followed by a solemn rendition of the French national anthem.

Banker Melanie Rose, 28, who attended the gathering, said it was a show of solidarity for friends and family back home.

"Even while we are on the other side of the world, it was a strong image and message that everyone was trying to send, that we are united."