On Sunday, January 10, 2016, French politicians and the public gathered in Paris to remember the first anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo and kosher supermarket attacks.

Last year, on Sunday, January 11, a huge gathering took place in Paris.

This year’s attendance was sparse by comparison. Whereas 1.5 million people marched peacefully last year in Paris, only a few thousand went to Place de la République on Sunday.

This is probably because so many went there for a commemoration of the victims of the November 2015 attacks.

Sunday’s gathering ended a week of smaller ceremonies to remember the attack on the satirical magazine’s staff on January 7 and on the kosher supermarket on January 9.

Earlier in the week, a stone plaque with the names of Charlie Hebdo‘s victims was unveiled at the building where they used to work. It was covered up soon afterward, because cartoonist Georges Wolinski’s name was misspelled. The City of Paris is rectifying the error with the stone mason.

Wolinski’s widow Maryse was further dismayed that the French government had invited 72-year-old pop star Johnny Hallyday — the French Elvis — to sing a special memorial song during Sunday’s ceremony. Hallyday was never a favourite of the magazine’s cartoonists, who often lampooned him. It shows a certain generosity of spirit that he agreed to write the lament then perform it.

Maryse Wolinski was not the only unhappy woman remembering last year’s massacre.

Police officer Franck Brinsolaro, who guarded the late editor Stéphane ‘Charb’ Charbonnier, was also gunned down that day. The Guardian reported that his widow has filed a legal complaint over security failings.

Mrs Brinsolaro said in an interview last week on French radio:

For me, Franck was sacrificed.

She explained:

He saw the dysfunction, he rued the lack of security at the offices, he said people could slip through.

Indeed, that is also what Le Canard Enchaîné — the French equivalent of England’s Private Eye — has revealed.

The paper reported on testimony to the police which states that, three months prior to the attack, a worker in the building which housed Charlie Hebdo‘s offices saw a stranger outside who told him that the magazine’s employees were being watched because they were ridiculing Islam’s prophet. The worker later identified the stranger as Chérif Kouachi, one of the January 7 killers. Although the information months before the attack was passed on to police, it is unclear whether it was acted upon. Apparently not.

January 7 did not go unobserved by Islamic extremists. Just as French president François Hollande was addressing police in Paris — one of the commemoration events — a man brandishing a meat cleaver and shouting ‘Allah Akhbar’ was demanding to be let into the police station in the 18th arrondissement district of Goutte d’Or (‘drop of gold’). Police warned the man, also wearing a fake suicide vest, to stop. When he repeatedly ignored their instructions, they opened fire and fatally wounded him.

These two events took place at 11:30 a.m., the exact time of the Charlie Hebdo massacre last year.

As I write, the Goutte d’Or extremist’s identity has not yet been established. He was carrying no ID papers, mandatory for everyone in France, however, he did have a piece of paper with the IS flag printed on it and a note written in Arabic taking responsibility for his acts.

Initially, he was thought to have been a homeless Moroccan who was convicted of theft in the south of France in 2013. At the weekend, however, The Telegraph reported that:

people presenting themselves as his relatives have come forward and have identified the man as a Tunisian called Tarek Belgacem. They denied that he was involved in terrorism.

The French authorities have not confirmed any name but interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, said he was “undoubtedly” Tunisian. 

Not surprisingly, French police found a mobile phone on his person. Interestingly, it had a German SIM card.

Consequently, police have been working with their German counterparts to find out more about this man.

It transpires he had recently been living in a German refugee centre for three months before travelling to Paris.

The Telegraph article stated:

The man had stayed in refugee accommodation in Recklinghausen in the west of the country, and had reportedly painted a symbol associated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) on a wall in shelter.

This case proves the difficulty in admitting ‘refugees’. The Telegraph reports (emphases mine):

The man had painted an Isil symbol on a wall in the refugee shelter in September, according to German newspaper Welt am Sonntag. It is not yet known when authorities became aware of the painting.

The news magazine Spiegel Online reported meanwhile that the man, understood as having been registered as an asylum seeker, had already been classed by German police as a possible suspect after he posed at the refugee centre with an Isil flag, but he disappeared in December.

The man had given different nationalities at each registration, once saying he was Syrian, another time saying he was Moroccan, and on yet another occasion, Georgian.

The link to a refugee shelter in Germany, and the apparent ease with which the man was able to register with the authorities, risks further inflaming a debate over the 1.1 million asylum-seekers that the country took in last year.

All this comes in the wake of New Year’s Eve assaults on women not only in several cities and towns in Germany, but also Austria, Switzerland and Finland.

Of the assaults in Cologne, which took place between the city’s cathedral and main railway station:

Heiko Maas, Germany’s justice minister, said on Sunday that he suspected that the attacks in Cologne that have left the country reeling were not the result of an opportunistic mob mentality but a planned attack.

No one can tell me that it wasn’t coordinated and prepared,” he told newspaper Bild am Sonntag. “My suspicion is that this specific date was picked, and a certain number of people expected. This would again add another dimension [to the crimes].”

Angela Merkel is once again under rightful criticism for bringing chaos to Germany and the rest of Europe.

Those who want to agree with her might wish to note the following information relating to New Year’s Eve arrests:

Police have detained for questioning a 22-year-old Tunisian, was registered at a refugee centre in a neighbouring state, while two Moroccans aged 18 and 23, were apparently in the country illegally, according to their lawyer.

Our clients are modern nomads,” Ingo Lindemann said. “They’re not war refugees but more like grown street children who move with the flow of refugees across Europe.”

These are hardly Emma Lazarus’s ‘huddled masses yearning to breathe free’ who arrived at Ellis Island a century or so ago.

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