The deadly 1961 crackdown revealed the horror of "massacres and crimes against humanity that will remain engraved in the collective memory", the French president said in a statement released by his office.
Emmanuel Macron denounced as an "unforgivable crime," a bloody crackdown on Algerian protesters by police in Paris 60 years ago. Although Macron "recognised" the massacre, he did not apologise. He did not announce a commission into what happened and no compensation.
Macron's statement becomes the strongest recognition by a French president of a massacre in which many bodies were thrown into the River Seine.
Yet critics say the move doesn't go far enough.
In a series of tweets, in Arabic, following Macron's statement the Algerian journalist Khadija Benguenna, called the events of October 16 1961, "one of the most horrific massacres of genocide against Algerians who went out in a peaceful demonstration in Paris."
Khadija, who has more than 1.2 million Twitter followers and is considered one of the Arab worlds most influential personalities, said Macron's recognition of the massacre doesn't go far enough.
"The number of people killed by shooting and thrown into the Seine remains a state secret to this day, and the apology remains a distant prospect," she added.
60عاما تمرّ اليوم على واحدة من أبشع مجازر الإبادة الجماعية في حق جزائريين خرجوا في مظاهرة سلمية في باريس في #17octobre 1961.عدد القتلى الذين قتلوا رميا بالرصاص ورميا في نهر السين، يظل إلى اليوم سرا من أسرار الدولة، والاعتذار يبقى بعيدا رغم اهتمام الإليزي والإعلام FR بإحياء الذكرى pic.twitter.com/rmzhNRI5LO— خديجة بن قنة (@Benguennak) October 16, 2021
On October 17, 1961, under the orders of then Paris police chief Maurice Papon, police attacked a demonstration by 25,000 pro-National Liberation Front (FLN) Algerians protesting against a curfew imposed on Algerians.
The march was repressed "brutally, violently and in blood", Macron's office said in a statement, adding that some 12,000 Algerians were arrested, many were wounded and dozens killed.
Macron attended a ceremony commemorating the anniversary at the bridge at Bezons, west of Paris, from where some Algerians had started their march and where many bodies were recovered from the Seine.
"He admitted the facts: the crimes committed that night under the authority of Maurice Papon are inexcusable for the Republic," the Elysee Palace statement said.
READ MORE: Why are tensions escalating between France and Algeria?
La France regarde toute son Histoire avec lucidité et reconnaît les responsabilités clairement établies. Les crimes commis la nuit du 17 octobre 1961, sous l’autorité de Maurice Papon, sont inexcusables pour la République. Aux victimes, nous rendons aujourd’hui hommage. pic.twitter.com/QnneJUyUYp— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) October 16, 2021
Rewriting history based on "a hatred of France"
The massacre, which took place during the war against French rule in Algeria, was long denied or concealed by French authorities.
The first commemorations of the event were organised in 2001 by the mayor of Paris.
The precise number of victims was never established, with some historians putting it at over 200 dead.
This year's commemoration takes place amid diplomatic tensions between Paris and Algiers.
An Algerian user on Twitter reacted Macron's recognition of massacre as saying, "Macron admits, without acknowledging it and apologising on behalf of the state, to one of the French crimes that occurred on October 17, 1961, when French police opened fire on Algerian demonstrators in Paris. He neither confessed nor excused war crimes, continued."
Macron admet, sans le reconnaître et s'excuser au nom de l'État, d'un des crimes français qui s'est produit le 17 octobre 1961, lorsque la police française a ouvert le feu sur des manifestants algériens à Paris. Il n'a pas avoué ni excusé les crimes de guerre, suite....— 🇩🇿إنّ الجزائر في أحوالها عجب 🇩🇿 (@aekhennad1) October 16, 2021
Early this month Algeria recalled its ambassador to Paris, citing comments attributed to Macron, who was quoted in the Le Monde newspaper as saying Algeria's rulers had rewritten the history of its colonisation based on "a hatred of France".
READ MORE: France’s silence over colonial crimes ensures confrontation with Algeria