‘Paris broken! Paris outraged!’ How De Gaulle’s words resonate now

Paris is waking up in shock and grief, but also worried that some of the attackers are still on the run

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Over the past few months, Paris celebrated the 70th anniversary of its liberation from Nazi dictatorship and now, its streets resonate with President Charles De Gaulle’s 1944 speech back then: “Paris! Paris outraged! Paris broken! Paris martyred! But Paris liberated! Liberated by itself, liberated by its people.”

Horror has struck the streets of Paris yet again this year. More than 120 people lost their lives in what will remembered as the bloodiest terrorist attacks in modern French history.

Infographic: Seven deadliest attacks in Europe in decades

Infographic: Seven deadliest attacks in Europe in decades
Infographic: Seven deadliest attacks in Europe in decades

As opposed to January when the targets were clearly identified and linked to political or religious affiliation – the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket – last night’s vicious attacks aimed at the everyday French citizen. The victims were the French youth and music lovers, a generation of peaceful Parisians who dined at restaurants or attended a rock concert.

Paris is waking up in shock and grief, but also worried that some of the attackers are still on the run.

While eight militants were killed at the Bataclan concert hall, on the Boulevard Voltaire and around the Stade de France as the French national team squared off against Germany, the perpetrators of three other shootings in the North East popular neighborhood of Paris are still being tracked down.

The massive number of casualties will give resonance to these attacks. Yet what might be even more important is the repetition of similar events.

If the attacks have not been yet officially backed by any organization, the shouts heard in the streets of Paris from the barbarian assailants seem to confirm the mark of ISIS. Last August, a similar plot had been dismantled. A man who just returned from Syria confirmed his intention to attack a concert hall. It seems that intelligence services were not able this time to prevent a second attempt.

Regular target of retrograde attacks

Many believe that what makes France the now regular target of retrograde attacks is its infallible fight against religious terrorism and its constant affirmation of secular and liberal values. The core values of France – its secular, republican society, its support to freedom, equality and solidarity (the three words proudly brandished on every official building) –are the very definition of what fundamentalists hope to shut down.

It is also believed that the Parisian youth, this multicultural mosaic in which communities and religions coexist under the umbrella of the rule of law and a republican cradle, represents exactly what ISIS and al-Qaeda aim at destroying.

The neighborhoods where the shootings took place are popular streets. Their inhabitants were enjoying the start of their weekend in restaurants and cafes or enjoying music in the Bataclan, the concert hall where dozens of men and women were killed.

France has been officially at war against terrorism for years, but it has perhaps never felt the pain and cruelty of ignominious acts of terrorism as it did last night. In the 1990s, the metro system in the French capital was the regular target of bombs and its inhabitants will now remember those dark days. Still, the death toll of last night’s events is unprecedented.

Despite the shock of this tragedy, the French will be encouraged by their leaders to remember they lived darker hours. With regards to its participation to conflicts in the Middle East, France will most likely continue playing its part, including strikes on ISIS targets in Syria.

After the January attack on the satirical magazine, claimed by an al-Qaeda branch, France rallied into massive demonstrations and honored the memory of its fallen. There is no doubt that a similar reaction will be seen after Friday’s attacks.

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