Editorial: France's fight against terror deserves New Zealand's support

A commemorative plaque unveiled by French President Francois Hollande and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo is seen in front of the Bataclan concert hall in Paris. Photo / AP
A commemorative plaque unveiled by French President Francois Hollande and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo is seen in front of the Bataclan concert hall in Paris. Photo / AP

It is a year since terrorists launched co-ordinated attacks in Paris and slaughtered 130 innocent people. The worst assault on November 13 last year occurred at the Bataclan nightclub, an historic theatre, where gunmen massacred 90 music fans at a show by an American band, Eagles of Death Metal.

The Islamic State militants opened fire with automatic weapons as the group started their song Kiss the Devil.

As the attacks unfolded across the city, the level of planning revealed a degree of French vulnerability which seemed to catch the authorities by surprise. The shock intensified when it emerged that some of the attackers were young French men who had been trained by Islamic State in Syria.

Isis claimed the attacks were in retaliation for French airstrikes on targets in Syria and Iraq. The scale of the Paris atrocities were unsettling, given that the Republic was no stranger to terrorist strikes.

In January last year gunmen claimed 17 victims after they stormed the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris and attacked a kosher grocery store.

Of all the major European states, France has most acutely experienced the murderous ambition of the jihadists.

Belgium, where the Paris attacks appeared to be planned, was hit in March with strikes on its airport and a train station. The outrages left 32 people dead. But terror returned to France in July when an attacker used a truck with deadly results in Nice, fatally mowing down 86 revellers on Bastille Day.

President Francois Hollande declared a state of emergency after the November attacks, which is still in force. This week, Paris marked the sorrowful anniversary with reflection, and resilience. The reopening of the Bataclan itself was a defiant signal to the jihadists that the murderous movement would not succeed.

The veteran rock star Sting performed at the theatre, opening his show with a tribute. Speaking in French, the British singer said: "Nous ne les oublierons pas"- "we will not forget them."

A purpose of terrorism is to disrupt communities, and succeeds in its evil intention when the place that it targets is incapable of managing to go about its business as usual. The Islamists have struck fear into Paris, but they have not won.

Tourism has softened but not withered in what is a global hub for culture and the arts. The City of Light still holds its power to draw visitors, though the numbers are down, and so is the income that Paris earns from the eight million people expected to spend time in the famous city this year.

Security is much more visible, with more than 6000 soldiers on the streets of the capital, the largest deployment of troops since World War II. In a survey, 59 per cent of French people said the attacks had changed forever the way they view life and a similar percentage still felt "angry".

Tensions are apparent in reports of relations between different ethic and religious communities. Prime Minister Manuel Valls warned at the weekend that "Yes, terrorism will strike us again." But, he contended, "we have all the resources to resist and all the strength to win."

Friends of France - and that includes New Zealand - must ensure it succeeds.

- NZ Herald

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