Kerry offers ‘big hug’ to Paris
Paris — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry paid his respects Friday to the victims of last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris in a show of American solidarity with the French people.
On a day tinged with sorrow and a city still on edge in the aftermath of the violence, Kerry met with French President Francois Hollande and Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius before visiting the sites of the attacks, offering silent prayers and laying wreaths to honor the dead under heavy security.
Underscoring heightened fears, police evacuated a major train station in the city after a bomb threat as Kerry’s motorcade sped from site to site. And the Paris prosecutor’s office said 10 people have been arrested in anti-terrorism raids in the region.
Kerry, who had said he was coming “to share a big hug with Paris,” did literally just that as he embraced Hollande in the courtyard of the presidential palace.
“I think you know that you have the full and heartfelt condolences of the American people and I know you know that we share the pain and the horror of everything that you went through,” he told Hollande. “Our hearts are with you.”
Hollande said the French people “were the victims of an exceptional terrorist attack. We must therefore together find the necessary response.”
Later, Kerry and Foreign Minister Fabius laid a wreath at the Hyper Cacher kosher market, one of the two sites that had been attacked last week. The wreath was just the latest addition to a long stretch of flowers and candles that have been placed alongside police barriers that surround the market.
At the market, Kerry and Fabius spoke briefly with Joel Mergui, the head of France’s Rabbinical Council, before heading to the memorial to those killed at the Charlie Hebdo satirical newspaper by gunmen claiming to be acting on behalf of al-Qaida’s Yemen branch to avenge the publication of cartoons mocking the Prophet Mohammed.
There, at a makeshift memorial down the street from the newspaper’s office, they laid another wreath and were joined by Francois Vauglin, the mayor of the district.
Then Kerry, accompanied by US Ambassador to France Jane Hartley, walked the short distance to where a Paris police officer was killed by the gunmen and placed flowers at the site.
Kerry’s visit came amid lingering criticism of the Obama administration’s failure to send a cabinet-level official to Paris for last Sunday’s unity march that attracted some 40 world leaders and more than a million demonstrators.
Kerry is to wrap up his Paris trip at an event at the Paris town hall, where he will speak and then listen to a short performance by American singer/songwriter James Taylor, a personal friend of his.
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