Paris attack memorial
A woman prays at a makeshift memorial in front of the Bataclan theatre, scene of the worst bloodbath in the Paris attacks, on 15 NovemberRanck Fife/AFP/Getty Images

Chaos and panic gripped mourners who had gathered at the Place de la Republique in Paris as firecrackers went off in the neighbourhood. People fled frantically suspecting gunshot sounds.

Hundreds of Parisians had come to pay their respects to victims of the 13 November attacks despite a city-wide curfew when the popping noises began on Sunday, two days after Islamic State (isis)-backed terrorists carried out bombings and shootings at seven locations across the city killing 129 people.

"There was crowd movement apparently with no reason. We hadn't heard anything and the people we questioned hadn't heard anything either. But somehow people just started running," a police officer told Sky News.

Several false attack stories also started doing the rounds. Prominent rumours came about a purported attack in Rue des Rosiers, a Jewish quarter, and another in Rue des Archives. All turned out to be false but touched a raw nerve, causing near stampedes. Law enforcement urged people to seek shelter which, in turn, created more panic with crowds suddenly running in all directions.

At Le Carillon, a cafe targeted by gunmen in Friday's attack, restaurants close to the Place de la Republique, people were seen ducking under tables. Annette Young, a France 24 journalist, was dining out with a colleague when a false alarm caused her to take cover in the kitchen of a Japanese cafe.

On Saturday a popular hotel located close to the Eiffel Tower was suspected to be targeted. But the French Interior Ministry said it had been a false alarm. Heavy policing was spotted at the Pullman Hotel by guests who were told to stay in their rooms.