Saturday, December 4

France ‘did everything possible’ to prevent terrorism, says former president | Paris attacks


Former French President François Hollande has told a Paris court that authorities “did everything possible” to prevent terrorist attacks in the country, including launching military strikes against jihadist training camps in Syria and Iraq, but the government had no information that may have stopped the 2015 Paris terrorist attacks.

“If I had the slightest doubt about what we had done, I would tell him, ask for forgiveness and ask for forgiveness,” Hollande said. “But that’s not my focus. I understand the suffering of the victims. I’m trying on my answers [to the court] to confirm that everything was done. “

Hollande appeared in court on Thursday to testify in the largest criminal trial in French history for the attacks reported by the Islamic State on November 13, 2015, which killed 130 people and injured more than 400 in synchronized suicide bombings. and mass shootings in the French capital.

The murder began around 9 p.m. that Friday night when a suicide bomber blew himself up after failing to enter the Stade de France for a friendly soccer match between France and Germany, attended by Hollande. Then came shootings from vehicles and suicide bombings in cafes and restaurants. Finally, three armed men entered the Bataclan during an Eagles of Death Metal concert, killing 90 people.

There has been outrage from the families of some victims that a jihadist command was able to evade detection while preparing the biggest atrocities seen on French soil since World War II.

Hollande insisted that the intelligence services had “done everything possible” to “identify and neutralize” the threats.

French officials had known for months that the country could be a target, Hollande told the court. He said that even IS extremists were known to be entering disguised as refugees. “But we did not know where, when or how they would hit us,” he added.

The nine armed men were killed, either by police shooting or by immobilization. A total of 20 men are on trial charged with providing planning and logistical support. Six will be tried in his absence: five are presumed dead in Iraq or Syria and one is in prison in Turkey. The main defendant in the trial is Salah Abdeslam, who was allegedly part of the team of attackers, but discarded a malfunctioning explosive vest and fled to Belgium.

During the attack on the Bataclan rock concert, gunmen had shouted that it was Hollande’s fault and that they were seeking revenge for France’s air strikes against Syria.

Hollande dismissed the attackers’ speeches about him as “a memorized text, a kind of signature, as if the people who ordered the attacks had said that was the message to be delivered.”

He said he did not believe that the attackers had attacked France due to French military intervention. “This group caught our attention not because of our actions abroad, but because of our way of life at home,” he said, adding: “Democracy will always be stronger than barbarism.”

Hollande said he stood firm on the French military intervention in Iraq and Syria in 2014 and 2015, saying: “The biggest victims of Islamist terrorism are Muslims.”

He described being within earshot of the first blast, when a suicide bomber blew himself up outside the gates of the national stadium.

Hollande said: “When the first explosion sounded and a player stopped in surprise, I realized that it could be an attack. When the second explosion went off, I no longer had any doubts. ”

He said that he had left his seat to consult with security officials and decided that the match should continue and “everything possible should be done to avoid panic.” He told a German government minister and the head of the French parliament, who were present, to remain in their seats. He went to the Ministry of the Interior to coordinate the response.

Later that night, he decided to go to the Bataclan himself, watching the bloodied survivors leave after a ordeal that had lasted two hours.

“I saw people come out of the Bataclan, even then, hugging each other. They saw me and couldn’t say a single word, ”he testified. “That will stay with me forever.”


www.theguardian.com

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