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Paris marks first anniversary of terror attacks with emotional ceremonies

Published 13/11/2016

French president Francois Hollande and Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo unveil a commemorative plaque next to the A La Bonne Biere cafe and the Rue de la Fontaine au Roi street in Paris (Philippe Wojazer/Pool Photo via AP)
French president Francois Hollande and Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo unveil a commemorative plaque next to the A La Bonne Biere cafe and the Rue de la Fontaine au Roi street in Paris (Philippe Wojazer/Pool Photo via AP)
A tribute at Place de la Republique in Paris to mark one year since the Paris terrorist attack. Sunday November 13, 2016. On November 13 last year, 89 people were killed in a massacre at the venue where Eagles Of Death Metal were performing, including Briton Nick Alexander. Photo credit should read: Catherine Wylie/PA Wire
Tributes at Place de la Republique in Paris to mark one year since the Paris terrorist attack. Sunday November 13, 2016. On November 13 last year, 89 people were killed in a massacre at the venue where Eagles Of Death Metal were performing, including Briton Nick Alexander. Catherine Wylie/PA Wire
Nick Alexander was killed in the terrorist attack at the Bataclan club in Paris a year ago (PA/Foreign Office)

The people of Paris have marked the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks that left 130 dead in a series of emotional ceremonies.

President Francois Hollande led commemoration events at the sites hit by Islamic extremists, including the Bataclan concert hall where Briton Nick Alexander was among 89 music fans killed in a massacre.

Suicide bombers - Frenchmen Omar Ismail Mostefai, 29, Samy Amimour, 28, and Foued Mohamed-Aggad, 23 - stormed into the venue where the Eagles Of Death Metal were performing, while attackers also targeted cafes and the Stade de France on November 13 last year.

Mr Alexander had been on tour with the American band selling merchandise, and tried to play dead when he was approached by one of the gunmen, who opened fire.

After former Police frontman Sting re-opened the Bataclan on Saturday night, Mr Hollande joined survivors and victims' families on Sunday morning, where a plaque was unveiled and the names of those who died were read out.

Mourners arrived all day to leave flowers and candles beneath the plaque, with many walking away in tears.

In the afternoon, in Place de la Republique, people paid their respects by writing hopeful messages on heart-shaped pieces of paper.

Artist Morvan Christelle had laid out 130 potted pansies, representing the 130 victims, and asked people to tuck their messages into the pots.

She said she hoped for messages of "peace and love".

Later, dozens of red, white and blue lanterns were sent drifting down Canal Saint-Martin.

Looking on at the scene as night fell on the City of Light, a woman who gave her name as Gabrielle said two of her friends managed to get out of the Bataclan alive.

"I think it's a good thing to remember, but when you were in there it's hard as well," she said.

Her friends were in the front row at the concert and escaped through an emergency exit.

Gabrielle, 27, said she herself is a big fan of Eagles Of Death Metal, but happened to be in London on the weekend of the attacks.

"I would have been to the concert," she said, adding: "It puts everything into perspective. We all know somebody who knows somebody who was there."

Meanwhile, a pianist outside the Bataclan brought back memories of the mysterious musician who captured the hearts of millions hours after the attacks took place last year.

Andrea Lucca, from Udine in Italy, received huge applause after he played Nuvole Bianche by Ludovico Einaudi.

The 23-year-old, who is in Paris studying finance, said he joined a number of other musicians and recalled how his music brought one woman to tears.

"There was a woman who said 'thank you'. She was crying. It was really touching, really emotional. I didn't expect such a big reaction," he said.

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