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Obama pays homage to Paris victims at Bataclan

Philippe Wojazer, AFP

Standing completely still, his eyes fixed on the flowers, flags and flickering candles at his feet, Barack Obama paid his own silent tribute to those who died in Paris’s Bataclan concert hall.

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Only minutes before, in the early hours of Monday, the US president had landed at Orly airport to attend a huge climate summit aimed at clinching an international deal to combat global warming.

His first act was to visit the concert hall where, on November 13, jihadists armed with AK47s and suicide vests killed 90 people in the bloodiest of a wave of attacks across the French capital.

Standing in front of the site of the carnage, Obama stayed silent, moving only to step forward and place a rose among the tributes.

At his right stood French President Francois Hollande, who the US president had received five days earlier at the White House, and next to him, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo.

Obama’s brief visit to the concert hall in the east of the city was not announced in advance due to security concerns, which have been at fever pitch since the Paris attacks.

In all, 130 people lost their lives in the wave of killings claimed by the Islamic State group, which also targeted restaurants and bars, and France’s national stadium.

The Bataclan has become a rallying point for those mourning the victims of the Paris attacks, including leaders from Britain, Canada and Chile as well as Irish rock group U2.

Thousands of ordinary people have also come to say goodbye a stream of grave, incredulous and often tearful visitors passing by day after day.

Since that night of terror, the US President has redoubled his pledged of friendship with France.

Attending the UN climate change summit is “an opportunity to stand in solidarity with our oldest ally, just two weeks removed from the barbaric attacks there,” he said in a Facebook post before taking off from Washington.

Obama received Hollande at the Oval Office last week as part of the French president’s whirlwind diplomatic tour to build support for an international coalition against the Islamic State group.

“Nous sommes tous Francais,” (“We are all French”) he Obama afterwards, referencing the rallying cry of “Je Suis Charlie” adopted after jihadists killed 17 people in Paris in January.

Obama faced criticism for underestimating the strength of feeling after those attacks, which sparked outrage after a dozen people were killed at the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Almost four million people took part in a march across France in the wake of the killings, attended by some 50 heads of state and government.

But Washington only sent an amassador, prompting the White House to later issue a rare apology.

(AFP)

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