PARIS - French President Francois Hollande acknowledged on Wednesday Algerians were massacred during an independence rally in Paris in 1961, ending decades of official silence over one of the darkest chapters of post-war French history.

The statement, which came as Hollande tries to improve relations with Algiers ahead of a visit there in December, was the first time a French president had publicly accepted the killings took place.

As Algeria's battle for independence spilled into France, Paris police chief Maurice Papon ordered police to crack down on thousands of Algerian protesters who had defied a curfew.

"On October 17, 1961, Algerians who were protesting for independence were killed in a bloody repression. The Republic recognizes these facts with lucidity," Hollande said in a statement. "I pay homage to victims fifty-one years later."

Please LIKE our Facebook page - it makes us stronger