France “faced down” Muslims who were behind the deaths of 17 people in three days of attacks, but still remains threatened, the country’s president and prime minister said on Friday.
Speaking in a televised address shortly after commandos killed the three gunmen responsible for the wave of terror, French President Francois Hollande hailed the “courage” of French security forces — but said France “has not finished with the threats targeting it.”
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, speaking to TF1 television, said: “We are confronting an unprecedented terrorist challenge.”
Valls said of this week’s violence: “There will be a before and an after of what happened.”
Paris has been on its highest state of alert since Wednesday, when two gunmen stormed the offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical newspaper, killing 12 people.
Fears of a jihadist campaign took hold the next day, when a policewoman in a southern Paris district was murdered in the street by a third gunman.
On Friday, events came to a climax with two hostage-takings — one in Paris and the other in a town to the northeast — by the Muslim gunmen. French commandos simultaneously stormed both sites, killing the men.
Authorities yesterday were still pursuing 26-year-old Hayat Boumeddiene, the girlfriend of one of the gunmen, said to be “armed and dangerous.”
Hollande said “these fanatics have nothing to do with the Muslim religion” — a message aimed at preventing a backlash against France’s Muslim community, Europe’s biggest, which is estimated at over 4 million.
He called the hostage-taking in Paris, which took place in a Jewish supermarket in the capital’s east, “an appalling anti-Semitic act.” More than a dozen people held by the gunman were freed after the commando raid, but four others died.
He also called for public vigilance and unity.
The horrific wave of violence elicited statements of sympathy and support for France from around the world. A mass rally to honor the dead and condemn the week’s violence is planned for today in Paris. Hollande said he would attend the rally, together with several foreign leaders, including those of Germany, Britain, Spain and Italy.
Valls, meanwhile, vowed that the government would investigate the events of the past week to answer several “legitimate” questions. Among them, how the gunmen — who were known to the police, and two of whom were on a US no-fly list — could mount such operations.
“We owe a duty of truth to the victims, to their families and to our compatriots,” he said.
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