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France

French President Hollande meets Paris attacks victims four months on

media French President Francois Hollande during a ceremony to pay a national homage to the victims of the Paris attacks, 27 November 2015 Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

French President François Hollande held his first formal meeting with victims of the 13 November Paris attacks on Monday. Hollande's office on Saturday announced the long-delayed meeting with five victims' associations formed after the attacks that claimed 130 lives and injured hundreds.

The president and Prime Minister Manuel Valls have been in regular contact with victims and their families, and Hollande has met with them previously at ceremonies, but this is the first formal sit-down. 

Reactions from victims and their representive groups ranged from positive to critical.

Emmanuel Domenach, who escaped a massacre at the Bataclan concert hall where 90 people were killed, said, "We felt we were heard, even if there was no concrete progress". 

But Georges Salines, the head of one victims' group, 13 Novembre: Fraternite et Verite (November 13: Fraternity and Truth), whose daughter Lola was among those killed at the Bataclan, suggested the government had not been supportive enough. 

He ran through a list of "serious problems" experienced by victims and their families, ranging from the process of identifying the bodies to emotional and financial support. 

He also wanted to know what Hollande's strategy was to prevent future attacks.

"What are France's international goals, what is being done to eliminate IS?" asked Salines, referring to the Islamic State armed group who claimed the attacks. 

To read our coverage of the November Paris attacks and their aftermath click here

The meeting came three days after Belgian police captured key suspect Salah Abdeslam, who had been on the run for four months, apparently helped by a network of accomplices. 

Belgian police on Monday announced they had found the DNA of a newly identified suspect on explosives used in last year's Paris attacks.

Investigators named a suspected accomplice as Najim Laachraoui, who was previously known by the false name of Soufiane Kayal.

Victims' groups said they were relieved Abdeslam was captured alive to face justice. 

Hollande promised to meet victims' representatives again in June, to take stock of the their situation.

The Elysée presidential palace also said there were plans to create a permanent office to help and liaise with victims.

The meeting came on the same day as La Belle Equipe became the last of the restaurants struck in the attack to reopen, surprising residents. Twenty people were killed at the spot in eastern Paris.

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