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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Ex-French president Francois Hollande testifies over 2015 Paris attacks


Former French President Francois Hollande has told a trial over the 2015 Paris attacks that the terrorists struck “our way of life itself”.

Mr. Hollande was president when Islamic State (IS) extremists slaughtered 130 people in Paris.

Jihadists detonated suicide vests and opened fire on cafes before slaughtering Bataclan concertgoers.

Mr. Hollande is being questioned about how the terrorists evaded detection.

It is unclear how several of the attackers and their accomplices were able to enter Europe and plot the attacks despite being tracked by intelligence services.

As a result, some victims’ families have questioned whether the carnage could have been avoided.

Mr Hollande testified, “I would do exactly the same if the same circumstances arose again.”

Former President Nicolas Sarkozy insisted that France’s security services had “done everything they could” to prevent an attack.

“It’s difficult to predict precisely when and where we’ll be attacked,” he said.

‘Hollande knew the risks’

The former president also denied there was any link between the attacks and France’s military actions against IS in the Middle East.

Salah Abdeslam, who prosecutors say is the only surviving member of the IS cell that launched the attacks, had earlier tried to justify the violence as retaliation for French airstrikes against IS.

“Francois Hollande knew the risks he was taking in attacking the Islamic State in Syria,” the 32-year-old told the trial in September.

He was referring to the president’s decision to authorise French airstrikes against the group in Syria as part of a coalition led by the US.

Mr Hollande, on the other hand, claimed that France had been targeted because “it is the country of human rights, of freedom.”

“This group struck us not because of our actions abroad, but because of our ways of life at home,” he said, adding, “Democracy will always be stronger than barbarism.”

‘After second blast, I had no doubt’

On November 13, 2015, IS admitted to carrying out coordinated attacks on the Bataclan concert hall, a major stadium, restaurants, and bars.

Mr. Hollande was at the Stade de France in Paris for a football match between France and Germany when the first attacker detonated his suicide vest.

As two more explosions rang out, security personnel rushed to evacuate the president.

Mr Hollande testified in court that when he heard the first explosion, he suspected it was a terror attack, but after hearing the second, he “had no more doubt.”

He went on television and spoke about the “horror” that was still unfolding, and he later declared a state of emergency.

Nine of the attackers were either killed by gunfire or blew themselves up. Salah Abdeslam fled to Belgium after discarding his bomb belt. After a shootout in Brussels, he was apprehended months later.

Mr Hollande’s testimony is the most recent stage of the trial, which is the largest in modern French history.

It has heard weeks of harrowing testimony from survivors and relatives of those killed in the attack.

14 men are on trial, the majority of whom are accused of assisting in the attacks through logistics or transportation. Six other people are being tried in their absence.

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