Paris attacks: France to mourn dead in solemn ceremony

A French flag flutters over candles and flowers as people gather at Place de la Republique in Paris to pay tribute to the victims of the Nov 13 terror attacks, on Nov 22.
A French flag flutters over candles and flowers as people gather at Place de la Republique in Paris to pay tribute to the victims of the Nov 13 terror attacks, on Nov 22. PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP) - France will on Friday (Nov 27) mourn the 130 people killed in the Nov 13 Paris attacks, with President Francois Hollande leading a solemn ceremony in honour of the victims.

Families of those killed in France's worst-ever terror attack, claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group, will join some of the wounded at ceremonies at the Invalides, the gilded 17th-century complex in central Paris that houses a military hospital and museum and Napoleon's tomb.

The tribute will be "national and republican," an official at the Elysee presidential palace said, referring to the French republic's creed of liberty, equality and fraternity.

"It will take place in sobriety and solemnity, reflected by the beauty of the surroundings." Hollande will break from a whirlwind diplomatic bid to build a broad military coalition to defeat ISIS.

The marathon has taken him from Paris to Washington to Moscow in just a few days.

He is expected to make a 20-minute address at the one-hour ceremony, which will be shown live on television.

In the run up to the commemoration, Hollande called on the French to hang out the Tricolour.

"Every French citizen can take part (in the tribute) by taking the opportunity to deck their home with a blue, white and red flag, the colours of France," government spokesman Stephane Le Foll quoted Hollande as saying.

But some victims' families have said they will snub the event, accusing the government of failing to tighten security after terror attacks in January, when militant gunmen killed 17 people in Paris, mainly at the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine.

"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, wrote on Facebook.

As the nation mourns the victims, an international manhunt is still on for two key suspects - Salah Abdeslam, who played a key logistical role in the wave of terror, and Mohamed Abrini, seen with Abdeslam two days before the Nov 13 atrocities.

France has stepped up its air strikes on ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq, where the group controls large areas of territory, and wants to create a more coordinated, concerted international effort to destroy the hardline Islamists.

On a visit to Moscow Thursday (Nov 26), Hollande and Russian leader Vladimir Putin agreed to coordinate strikes against the jihadists.

"The strikes against Daesh (ISIS) will be intensified and be the object of coordination," Hollande said at a press conference after their meeting at the Kremlin.

The agreement to focus on ISIS targets was the most concrete progress from the final leg of Hollande's marathon push to weld together a broad alliance to crush ISIS after the Paris attacks.

But the French leader failed to gain any pledge from Putin over helping the US-led coalition which is targeting ISIS.

Hollande's diplomatic drive has secured some offers of support from France's allies but also run into coolness and complications.

The challenge has been made tougher by by a spat between Moscow and Turkey over a downed 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 (Nov 26) for air strikes against ISIS in Syria, telling British MPs 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 ISIS.

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 what analysts are calling a cool reply from President Barack Obama when he flew to Washington on Tuesday (Nov 24).

The United States is reluctant to intensify military action in Syria without a clear strategy or political track in place.