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France remembers southern landings

France has paid tribute to Allied troops - including veterans from the US and French colonies in Africa - who landed 70 years ago on Mediterranean shores to liberate French land from Nazi occupation.

The so-called southern landings, involving some 450,000 troops and 881 warships, were launched 10 weeks after the D-Day invasion of Normandy.

The two operations liberated territory across northern and southern France, squeezing the Nazi occupiers in a pincer and hastening the German defeat and the end of the Second World War.

After major celebrations on June 6 to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day in the presence of world leaders including the Queen and US president Barack Obama, this time French authorities are paying special homage to the tens of thousands African troops recruited by colonisers to fight the Nazis. Fifteen African leaders were invited to today's events.

French president Francois Hollande was expected to call attention to current French military operations in Mali and Central African Republic, where French troops intervened last year at the request of local authorities to settle conflicts there.

"France is honoured to welcome again to Provence those who helped free it from over 1,800 days of war," Mr Hollande wrote in a statement ahead of the commemoration.

Mr Hollande is leading two ceremonies today, at Mount Faron above the Mediterranean shore in Toulon and another aboard the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle - named after France's wartime resistance leader.

A naval parade of 20 warships will take place off the beaches of Provence, including the USS Mount Whitney, two British minesweepers, and ships from Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.

On the evening of August 15, 1944, some 100,000 men landed on the beaches of southern France in an invasion codenamed Operation Dragoon. A total of 450,000 ultimately arrived and helped free the region. The Germans retreated rapidly. The cities of Toulon, Cannes and Marseille were liberated by August 28.

A ceremony dedicated to US troops will take place at the American cemetery of Draguignan tomorrow.


From Belfast Telegraph