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French Celebrate Bastille Day Amid Heightened Security

  • Associated Press

View of the Champs-Elysees avenue during the traditional Bastille day military parade in Paris, France, July 14, 2015.

View of the Champs-Elysees avenue during the traditional Bastille day military parade in Paris, France, July 14, 2015.

France is celebrating Bastille Day with a spectacular display of fighter jets — and with anti-terror forces marching in the yearly parade in Paris for the first time as the country's leadership tries to show its muscle against extremists abroad and at home.

The national holiday comes after the country was hit by terror attacks in January that killed 20 people, including the three attackers, and after an extremist beheaded his employer last month and caused an explosion that injured two people.

One spectator, Philippe Bastelisa, 55, who lives in Paris, said "it was really important that [security forces] participated in the parade, considering the situation right now and the drama of the beginning of the year.''

Another, Katy-Pauli Giraud, 58, led a group of spectators from Calais to the festivities, and called it "great'' that there was heightened protection against threats on such an important holiday.

"I'm not scared. I feel secure,'' she said.

French President Francois Hollande presided over the yearly parade on the Champs-Elysees, meeting and greeting members of the military. Alongside him was his guest of honor, Mexico's president Enrique Pena Nieto, whose government is smarting following the audacious prison break of a major drug lord.

Falconers of the Mexican army hold falcons as they march during the traditional Bastille Day military parade on the Place de la Concorde in Paris, France, July 14, 2015.

Falconers of the Mexican army hold falcons as they march during the traditional Bastille Day military parade on the Place de la Concorde in Paris, France, July 14, 2015.

The parade gave special recognition to the three armies, more than 10,000 soldiers, who participated in France's stepped-up security measures following the attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. For the first time, accolades also went to emergency first-responders as well as several elite units of the national police force and gendarmerie specializing in counterterror and hostage kidnappings.

Hollande additionally commemorated the 70th anniversary of France's liberation from Nazi Germany, saluting members of France's Order of Liberation. The spectacle included nearly 100 military planes and helicopters.

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