French President Francois Hollande has given a powerful defence of his country’s fight against terrorism, insisting that France will defeat its enemies because democracy always wins.
He said the battle against the “terrorists of Daesh (so-called Islamic State)” would be long and hard but they would be tracked down and annihilated.
Mr Hollande was speaking after deadly jihadist attacks in Rouen and in Nice.
There have also been fears this week of a new attack in central Paris.
Police arrested two couples after a Peugeot 607 car was found packed with gas cylinders near Notre Dame cathedral on Sunday.
The car’s hazard lights were flashing and notes in Arabic were found in the car, although officials said there was no detonator inside.
The first couple, said to have known links to jihadists, were detained at a service station in the south of France. Another couple were picked up in the Loiret region to the south of Paris late on Wednesday.
Both couples were thought to come from the town of Montargis. The car’s owner was questioned and later released, but anti-terrorist police are searching for his 19-year-old daughter who is described as radicalised.
In a lengthy speech on Thursday, President Hollande said that it was incumbent on all of France – Muslims and non-Muslims – to tackle radical Islam.
He launched a defence of France’s strict secular separation of the state from religion. “Nothing in the idea of secularism opposes the practice of Islam in France, provided it respects the law.”
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