Paris (AFP) – France has condemned remarks by US President Donald Trump about the 2015 attacks in Paris and called on him to show respect for the victims of the worst bloodshed on French soil since World War II.
The foreign ministry voiced its “firm disapproval” of the comments, in criticism amplified by former leaders, as well as survivors of the atrocity who unleashed their fury on Twitter.
Trump spoke about gun laws in France during a free-wheeling address to the National Rifle Association in Texas on Friday in which he also talked about knife crime in London, comparing a hospital in the city to a “war zone”.
He said the Paris assault might have been prevented if citizens were allowed to buy arms.
“Nobody has guns in Paris and we all remember more than 130 people, plus tremendous numbers of people that were horribly, horribly wounded. You notice nobody ever talks about them,” he told the audience.
“They were brutally killed by a small group of terrorists that had guns. They took their time and gunned them down one by one,” Trump added.
He then mimicked the assailants shooting their weapons, saying: “Boom. Come over here. Boom, come over here. Boom.”
“France expresses its firm disapproval of the comments by President Trump about the attacks of November 13, 2015 in Paris and asks for respect of the memory of the victims,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll said in a statement Saturday.
The atrocities carried out by gunman loyal to the Islamic State group were the worst terror attacks in France’s history and left the capital and wider country deeply traumatised.
Jihadists armed with assault rifles and suicide vests struck outside a France-Germany football match at the national stadium, cafes and bars, and the Bataclan concert hall in a coordinated assault that left 130 people dead and more than 350 wounded.
– Disgust and anger –
The comments from Trump came the week after President Emmanuel Macron visited Washington as guest of honour for a state visit which saw both the leaders eager to stress their friendship.
But it is not the first time Trump has targeted Paris, implying on the campaign trail in 2016 that the City of Lights was overrun by foreigners and extremists.
Victims group 13 Onze 15, which represents people injured in the 2015 violence, had demanded a response from the French government after the latest salvo.
“Our reaction is first of all disgust over unacceptable clowning around,” its leader Philippe Duperron told the Huffpost website while asking for “an official reaction”.
Other victims including Emmanuel Domenach wrote expletive-filled messages directed at the US president on Twitter.
Former French president Francois Hollande and ex-prime minister Manuel Valls, who were in power at the time of the 2015 attacks, also expressed their outrage in separate statements.
Hollande called Trump’s remarks “shameful” and said they “said a lot about what he (Trump) thinks of France and its values”.
Valls wrote on Twitter “indecent and incompetent. What more can I say?”
– London targeted too –
The US president also told the National Rifle Association convention in Dallas that a “once very prestigious hospital” in London was like a “war zone” because of knife crime.
“Yes, that’s right, they don’t have guns, they have knives and instead there’s blood all over the floors of this hospital. They say it’s as bad as a military war zone hospital,” Trump added.
He then mimicked someone using a knife.
Knife-related crimes rose by 23 percent in London last year and a spate of stabbings and shootings have left more than 50 people dead this year.
Trump did not specify which hospital he was referring to but British media said he may have been speaking about The Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, in the east of the city.
Professor Karim Brohi, trauma surgeon at The Royal London Hospital, said it was “ridiculous” to suggest guns are part of the solution to knife violence.
“Gunshot wounds are at least twice as lethal as knife injuries and more difficult to repair. We are proud of our world-leading service and to serve the people of London,” he added in a statement.
The French foreign ministry statement added that “France is proud to be a safe country where the purchasing and owning of guns is strictly controlled”.
“The statistics on gun crime victims do not make us want to change this choice,” it said.
There are more than 30,000 gun-related deaths each year in the United States.