France marks first anniversary of Charlie Hebdo attack

A commemorative plaque is seen during a ceremony at the site where policeman Ahmed Merabet was killed during the last year's January attack in Paris, France, on Jan 5, 2016.
A commemorative plaque is seen during a ceremony at the site where policeman Ahmed Merabet was killed during the last year's January attack in Paris, France, on Jan 5, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS
French President Francois Hollande (centre) and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo attending a ceremony to unveil a commemorative plaque at the site where policeman Ahmed Merabet was killed during the last year's January attack in Paris, France, on Jan 5, 2016
French President Francois Hollande (centre) and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo attending a ceremony to unveil a commemorative plaque at the site where policeman Ahmed Merabet was killed during the last year's January attack in Paris, France, on Jan 5, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS
French President Francois Hollande (centre) and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo (second, left) greeting the mother of Ahmed Merabet, the policeman who was killed during the last year's January attack, on Jan 5, 2016.
French President Francois Hollande (centre) and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo (second, left) greeting the mother of Ahmed Merabet, the policeman who was killed during the last year's January attack, on Jan 5, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS
A French soldier patrolling outside Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket on Jan 5, 2016.
A French soldier patrolling outside Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket on Jan 5, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS
Packed copies of the latest edition of Charlie Hebdo with the title "One year on, the assassin still on the run".
Packed copies of the latest edition of Charlie Hebdo with the title "One year on, the assassin still on the run". PHOTO: REUTERS
Two people walking outside the former offices of French weekly satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, where a memorial stone is displayed.
Two people walking outside the former offices of French weekly satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, where a memorial stone is displayed.PHOTO: EPA

PARIS (AFP) - French President Francois Hollande on Tuesday (Jan 5) unveiled plaques in memory of the victims of the shooting rampage a year ago in Paris that began with an assault on satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and lasted three days, claiming 17 lives.

Mr Hollande, flanked by Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, inaugurated the first plaque at Charlie Hebdo's former offices, where cartoonists who were household names in France, nicknamed Cabu, Wolinski and Charb, were killed along with nine others.

The Jan 7-9 attacks in 2015 by brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi, dubbed "France's 9/11", marked the start of a string of militant strikes in the country that culminated in the Nov 13 attacks in Paris that left 130 dead.

The massacre at Charlie Hebdo unleashed an outpouring of solidarity for freedom of expression, with the rallying cry "Je Suis Charlie" taken up around the world.

After the sombre ceremony in a light drizzle, Mr Hollande could be seen embracing Mr Georges Wolinski's widow Maryse.

Red-faced officials admitted later that they had misspelled Mr Wolinski's name on the plaque, and rapidly corrected the error.

The President and mayor unveiled a separate plaque nearby at the site where one of the gunmen fleeing the scene shot police officer Ahmed Merabet as he lay on the pavement.


The commemorative plaques which are displayed outside the former offices of French weekly satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo (top), along the Boulevard Richard Lenoir (centre) and outside the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket (bottom).

They went on to unveil a third plaque at the Hyper Cacher, a kosher supermarket in an eastern suburb where four Jews - three shoppers and an employee - were killed during a horrifying hostage drama.

Mr Hollande could be seen greeting Mr Lassana Bathily, the Muslim worker at the supermarket credited with saving many shoppers' lives by helping them hide in the store's underground cold room and later aiding police in the logistics of their raid.

Mr Bathily, a Malian who was given French nationality in the wake of the attacks, told AFP: "It's sad... In our hearts, we are here, offering support to their (the victims') families."

On Saturday, a fourth plaque is to be unveiled at the site in the southern suburb of Montrouge where Amedy Coulibaly, who later attacked the Jewish supermarket, gunned down a policewoman.

Commemorations will culminate in a public event on Sunday in the Place de la Republique, the vast square that has become the rallying point for "Je Suis Charlie" solidarity and for the mourning after the Nov 13 carnage.

An oak "remembrance tree" standing some 10m tall will be planted in the square.

Veteran rocker Johnny Hallyday will perform Un Dimanche de Janvier (One January Sunday), a song recalling the vast mobilisation that saw 1.6 million people march in Paris on Jan 11, 2015.

Dozens of world leaders including British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended the march.

Charlie Hebdo, which had been a target for militant attacks since publishing Prophet Mohammed cartoons in 2006, saw its offices firebombed in 2011.

Ms Ingrid Brinsolaro, the widow of cartoonist Charb's bodyguard Franck Brinsolaro who was killed alongside him in the attack, has filed a lawsuit claiming that her husband was left vulnerable because Charlie Hebdo was inadequately protected.

"To me, Franck was sacrificed, there's no other word for it. He saw shortcomings, he regretted the lack of security at the offices. He said it was a 'sieve' and it was impossible to do his job right in those conditions," she said on French television on Tuesday.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve defended the decision to reduce security at the magazine's offices before the attack, saying the authorities had determined that militants had shifted to targeting soldiers and police.

Charlie Hebdo, whose biting, often vulgar humour has spared no religion or political persuasion, will publish a special commemorative edition on Wednesday.

True to form, the cover is unabashedly provocative, featuring a Kalashnikov-toting God figure wearing a blood-stained white robe, under the headline: "One year on: The killer is still at large."