Former President Hollande will testify at the Paris attacks trial


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Paris (AFP) – Former French leader François Hollande will testify Wednesday in the trial over the Paris terrorist attacks of November 2015, facing questions about how a jihadist commando was able to evade detection while preparing for the atrocities that would shake France.

Hollande, president from 2012 to 2017, was attending a friendly France-Germany football match on the night of November 13, 2015 at the Stade de France stadium in Paris when the first suicide bomber detonated his jacket, prompting security officers to take two more explosions erupted.

Gunmen then opened fire on cafes and restaurants in a busy part of the capital and stormed the Bataclan concert hall, indiscriminately killing and taking hostages.

Hollande was quickly on television to talk about the still unfolding “horror” which at the end of the night left 130 dead, and he then declared a state of emergency.

Details remain obscure on the number of assailants or associates who entered and remained on the run in Europe despite being on intelligence radar.

This made some families of the victims question whether the bloodshed could have been avoided.

France was already on high alert in the face of jihadist attacks since the massacre of 12 people at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and four others during the hostage-taking of a Jewish grocery store for three heartbreaking days in January 2015.

Life for Paris, an association of victims who is among the plaintiffs in the trial of the November 2015 attacks, called on Hollande to testify on his government’s efforts to counter the jihadist threat.

“Did you know the risks? “

Several of the 10 attackers have crept into Europe from Islamic State strongholds in Syria, using false passports and mingling with flows of migrants fleeing war and poverty.

All were killed or ultimately shot dead by the police, with the exception of Salah Abdeslam, a dual Franco-Moroccan national, who was captured in Brussels after throwing off his suicide vest.

But several had been known to intelligence agents or under surveillance in France, Belgium and elsewhere, including an alleged leader of the attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud.

François Hollande (left) and then US President Barack Obama pay their respects at a memorial outside the Bataclan in Paris in November 2015 PHILIPPE WOJAZER SWIMMING POOL / AFP

A leading French-speaking jihadist in Syria, having played a role in several foiled attacks in France, Abaaoud was killed in a large police raid in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, on November 18.

Associates of the attackers had also been on the radar of European security forces, fueling the question of whether intelligence agencies missed or mismanaged key information that could have helped prevent the attacks.

“François Hollande knew the risks he was taking by attacking the Islamic State in Syria,” Abdeslam said during the marathon trial which began in September.

He was referring to Hollande’s decision to allow French airstrikes against the group in Syria, as part of the US-led coalition to drive the jihadists out of the territory they had seized in an attempt to capture. create an Islamic “caliphate”.

But so far, Abdeslam has refused to provide investigators with details of operational planning.

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