Bataclan
Flowers are laid outside the Bataclan theatre following the attacks on 13 November that left 130 people deadDominique Faget/AFP/Getty Images

Members of France's counter-terror force have expressed anger at their commander accusing him of cowardice for failing to tackle the jihadists responsible for the Bataclan massacre.

Personnel from the Gendarmerie Intervention Group (GIGN) expressed their outrage in an anonymous letter to their force's chief at what they said was the failure of Colonel Hubert Bonneau to order a unit on standby near the Bataclan to take on the three gunmen who killed 89 people there.

Describing him as a man of "little courage", the gendarmes said: "For two years we have submitted to the unjust and barely legitimate command of Colonel Bonneau . . . a bad leader who does his best to minimise the intervention force," said the letter, which was signed collectively "the intervention spirit".

"While there were 40 of us ready for action... ready to lead the assault, ready to halt the killing," Colonel Bonneau "quietly waited to be called in while hiding behind a tale about geographic responsibilities", it said, according to The Times.

A French parliamentary inquiry into the siege looked into why it took police two hours to storm the Bataclan but concluded there was no police failure.

The city's prefect of police, rather than the gendarmerie, was in charge of the operation and there is considerable rivalry between the GIGN and the police tactical intervention force, the RAID which was at the scene of the attack.

French MP Sébastien Pietrasanta, said the letter of discontent was due to a small part of the GIGN being unhappy at being excluded from the biggest hostage situation in France since World War Two.

The overall Gendarmerie command, headed by General Denis Favier said that "nothing supports the theory of a dysfunction in the use of the GIGN".

Massacre mastermind still at large

Abdelhamid Abaaoud syria
French MPs were told that Abdelhamid Abaaoud (pictured) was not the mastermind but simply a co-ordinator behind the Bataclan attacks Reuters

Meanwhile it emerged on Wednesday (13 July) that the man who was thought to have masterminded the attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud was only a co-ordinator and that the true mastermind was still at large.

The head of France's external intelligence agency, Bernard Bajolet, told a parliamentary inquiry in May, although it only emerged this week, that Belgian-born Moroccan Abaaoud did not plan the strikes.

"We know the mastermind but I will remain discreet on this point," Bernard Bajolet told MPs, while security sources would not specify his name, the Telegraph reported.

Security sources declined to specify the Isil commander's name or whereabouts but said every effort was being made to capture him.

Meanwhile the state of emergency declared in November will end in two weeks, having been extended for the third time in May to secure the European football championship and the Tour de France.