France pays tribute to special forces in annual parade

France pays tribute to special forces in annual parade
Members of the French RAID special forces march down the Champs-Elysees avenue during the Bastille Day parade in Paris.
PHOTO: Reuters

PARIS - France paid tribute on Tuesday to the elite armed units which intervened to end sieges after January's deadly attacks by Islamist miltants, showcasing the secretive forces for the first time in its annual Bastille Day parade.

Forces including the RAID assault unit marched down the Champs-Elysees avenue, some wearing sunglasses and helmets to hide their identity.

Broadcast media were told not to zoom in on the faces of other special forces members. "This march is more than ever the glue that holds the nation together," Prime Minister Manuel Valls said.

France is on top security alert after a suspected Islamist beheaded his boss and tried to blow up an industrial gas plant in the suburbs of the southeast city of Lyon last month.

Criminal intent was also suspected in two fires which broke out on Tuesday at a petrochemical facility near Marseilles airport on Tuesday. There was however no indication of a link between the two or any underlying political or religious motive.

Twenty people, including three of the attackers, were killed in January when gunmen targetted the headquarters of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and another shot a police officer and took hostages at a kosher supermarket near Paris.

In a television appearance, Hollande said police and army forces would stick to maximum security at least until the end of the year.

An extra 10,000 soldiers drafted in to maintain surveillance across France will continue to be deployed, he said, despite regular reports of chronic stress and fatigue. "We are faced with an enemy, the threat is there ... in 2015, nothing will be eased up."

Tuesday's procession showcased French military equipment, from regular infantry vehicles to Dassault's multi-role fighter Rafale and Airbus' military troops transporter A400M.

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