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France marks painful first anniversary of Paris attacks

Survivors say they are still struggling to understand how the worst attacks on French soil since WWII could have happened
A man puts a candle near a peace symbol made with flowers on place de la Republique in Paris (AFP)

France on Sunday marked the first anniversary of the Paris attacks with sombre ceremonies and painful memories for the relatives of the 130 people killed.

President Francois Hollande unveiled plaques at sites across the city that were attacked by the Islamic State group, starting at the Stade de France.

Manuel Dias, 63, was killed by a suicide bomber outside the national stadium where France were playing Germany in a football match in the first of a series of coordinated attacks on the evening of November 13, 2015.

Hollande and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo also unveiled plaques outside bars and restaurants in the trendy neighbourhood where gunmen sprayed bullets at people enjoying a Friday evening out.

The final ceremony took place outside the Bataclan, the concert hall where 90 people were killed by three attackers during a rock gig in the culmination of the carnage.

The names of those killed at the concert were read out as hundreds of people who were gathered under rainy skies watched in silence.

Rock star Sting had reopened the refurbished Bataclan with an emotionally charged show held amid tight security on Saturday.

"We will not forget them," the British singer told the crowd in French after a minute's silence for the victims.

Many in the crowd wept during the first song, Fragile.

The Bataclan management said they had prevented two members of the US group Eagles of Death Metal, who had been on stage when the bloodshed started, from entering the Sting concert over controversial remarks by their lead singer, Jesse Hughes.

"They came, I threw them out - there are things you can't forgive," said the venue's co-director, Jules Frutos.

The band's manager denied members of the group had tried to enter the concert hall at all.

Hughes, who caused outrage in France by suggesting Muslim staff at the Bataclan might have cooperated with the attackers, was however in the crowd for Sunday's ceremony at the venue.

Still seeking explanations 

Olivier, 28, who was injured during the rampage, fought back the tears as he attended the unveiling of the plaque in front of the Carillon bar and the Petit Cambodge restaurant, where 13 people were killed.

He was hit in the arm by a bullet, while his friend was killed by the gunmen. On Sunday he accompanied his friend's mother to the ceremony.

"I had to be here to support her," he told AFP. "But I won't come to any more commemorations."

He said he believed it was not enough to just remember the dead, "we must try to understand how this happened".

Islamic State said it had struck at France because it was bombing its militants in Iraq and Syria.

Hollande responded at the time by saying France was "at war," and French jets continue to launch air strikes on the group, which is fighting an Iraqi-led assault to take back the city of Mosul.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on Sunday the state of emergency declared after the attacks would likely be extended as France gears up for presidential elections in six months' time.

"This state of emergency device allows us to make arrests, administrative checks which are effective... So yes, we are probably going to live a few months more with this state of emergency," Valls told the BBC.

While stressing he remained "very cautious," Valls said the risk of similar coordinated attacks on France appeared to have diminished.

"But we may face attacks of the kind that we saw in Nice," he said, referring to the attack in July in the Riviera resort in which a 31-year-old Tunisian mowed down 86 people with a truck.

"That's to say some individuals who are driven directly by the internet, by social networks, by the Islamic Sate group, without having to go to Syria or Iraq," Valls said.

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