Fri | Sep 21, 2018

France braces for new terrorist attacks

Published:Sunday | January 11, 2015 | 12:00 AM
A French police officer stands guard outside the Grand Mosque as people arrive for Friday prayers, in Paris, France

France's government urged the nation to remain vigilant yesterday, as thousands of security forces try to thwart new attacks and hunt down a suspected accomplice in a rampage by terrorists linked to al-Qaida in Yemen that scarred the nation and left 20 dead.

Hundreds of thousands of people marched yesterday in cities from Toulouse in the south to Rennes in the west to honour the 17 victims of three attackers killed by police after three days of bloodshed at the offices of a satirical newspaper, a kosher supermarket and other sites around Paris.

The sense of relief was tinged with sorrow and worry. In Paris, security forces guarded places of worship and tourist sites, and prepared for what's likely to be a huge silent march today to show unity against extremists. Two dozen world leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron, are among the many expected to join.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said authorities will do everything to ensure security at the event. Speaking after an emergency meeting called by French President FranÁois Hollande yesterday morning, Cazeneuve called for "extreme vigilance", saying"we are exposed to risks".

Al-Qaida's branch in Yemen said it directed last Wednesday's attack against the publication Charlie Hebdo to avenge the honour of the Prophet Muhammad, a frequent target of the weekly's satire.

In a sign of the tense atmosphere, a security perimeter was briefly imposed at Disneyland Paris yesterday, before being lifted, a spokeswoman said, without elaborating. Movement around the park was back to normal by early afternoon.

Cazeneuve said the government is maintaining its terror-alert system at the highest level in the Paris region, and said investigators are focusing on determining whether the attackers were part of a larger extremist network.

Five other people are in custody as part of the investigation, and family members of the attackers are among several given preliminary charges so far.