France ramps up security across nation, warns of high risk of more attacks
Thousands of police will guard Jewish schools across France, while the military is also being deployed. Millions of people attended solidarity marches in France Sunday, including many world leaders.
A day after millions took to the streets in France in a solidarity march against terrorism, the French government announced that it is deploying 10,000 soldiers and police across the country to bolster security.
Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters the possibility of further attacks remained high after the killing of 17 people last week. He said France is mobilizing additional forces, and expects them to be in place by Tuesday. France 24 reports that "the military deployment is unprecedented in recent French history."
French security forces have been on high alert since Wednesday, when brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi burst into the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine and killed 12 people, including several editors and the police protecting them. The hunt for the pair ended Friday in twin hostage situations, one in a village just outside the city where the brothers fled, and the other staged by Amedy Coulibaly, an associate of the brothers, in a kosher market in east Paris. All three hostage-takers were killed in simultaneous police raids. A policewoman died in a separate incident on Thursday, allegedly shot by Mr. Coulibaly.
Four hostages were killed in the market, but a half dozen others escaped unharmed. A suspected accomplice, Coulibaly's common-law wife Mevlut Cavusoglu, reportedly escaped to Syria on Thursday, writes the Associated Press.
"The threats remain and we have to protect ourselves from them. It is an internal operation that will mobilize almost as many men as we have in our overseas operations," Reuters quotes Mr. Le Drian as saying Monday.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls said that the troops would be assigned to protect “synagogues, Jewish schools but also mosques, because a number of these have come under attack in recent days.” Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve added that the mobilization includes the assignment of 4,700 police to protect France's 717 nationwide Jewish schools.
Mr. Valls also said that France would move to isolate imprisoned terrorists from the general prison population, in response to reports that Cherif Kouachi recruited Coulibaly while they were incarcerated together in 2005. The New York Times reports that Kouachi was in prison for jihadi recruitment, while Coulibaly was only a "holdup artist" at the time.
France's stepping up of security comes a day after Paris hosted a massive march against the attacks and extremism in general. Up to 1.5 million people attended, including 50 world leaders, who walked in front arm-in-arm. Attending leaders included French President François Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
But Paul Vallet, a French political analyst based in Geneva, told The Christian Science Monitor that the international response to the attacks will depend on ongoing anti-terrorism cooperation between countries.
“In the next few days, one of the important objectives will be to see how security cooperation can be reinforced between all of these governments,” says Mr. Vallet. Leaders will be looking further at the Syria conflict, says Vallet, to find ways of neutralizing the Sunni jihadi groups that have drawn in fighters from across the Middle East and Europe, making Syria a likely vector for future international terrorism.
The Monitor notes that EU Council President Donald Tusk, who attended the rally, intends to propose new laws across Europe to combat extremism, including one that would create a European air passenger database. And the US will hold a counter-terrorism summit next month, the White House announced Sunday.