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Hollande tells Toulouse tribute committed to fight 'terror'

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

French President Francois Hollande on Sunday paid tribute to the seven people who last year fell victim to Islamist gunman Mohamed Merah, saying he remains committed to the fight against "terrorism".

"The fight against terrorism is global... and allows for no easing off, no weakness and no negligence," Hollande told a crowd of around 1,500 people that had gathered in the southwestern city of Toulouse for the service.

During his speech, Hollande also defended France's military intervention in Mali, saying it was "in the name of the international community".

Earlier Sunday, authorities said a fifth French soldier had been killed in the fighting with Islamists in northern Mali since the French-led offensive began on January 11.

"Democracy is always more powerful than fanaticism," Hollande said.

A self-described Al-Qaeda sympathiser, 23-year-old Merah shot dead a rabbi, three Jewish schoolchildren and three French paratroopers before being killed in a police siege in the city on March 22.

Merah, a French citizen with Algerian roots and who in 2011 received military training in Pakistan, wanted to avenge Palestinian children and punish France for sending troops to Afghanistan.

French police doubt that Merah could have acted alone, but the only person charged with helping him so far is his brother Abdelkader who has denied the charges.

Last month, however, police arrested two men in connection with Merah's killing spree, and in early December a 38-year-old man and his girlfriend were arrested on suspicion of links to the attacks but both were later released without charge.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130317/hollande-tells-toulouse-tribute-committed-fight-terror