Facing withering criticism on terror, Paris urges Frenchmen to join security forces
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Facing withering criticism on terror, Paris urges Frenchmen to join security forces

After Nice attack kills 84, Interior Minister Cazeneuve calls on young citizens to become reservists, help defend the country

Crowds gather at a make-shift memorial for victims of the deadly Bastille Day attack on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice on July 16, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / Valery HACHE)
Crowds gather at a make-shift memorial for victims of the deadly Bastille Day attack on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice on July 16, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / Valery HACHE)

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve on Saturday called on young citizens to become reservists and help boost security forces in the wake of the country’s latest terror attack.

France’s “operational reservists” include French citizens with or without military experience as well as former soldiers.

“I want to call on all French patriots who wish to do so, to join this operational reserve,” said Cazeneuve.

His call comes after the government has been criticized for not doing more to stop attacks.

The Islamic State group has said it was behind Thursday’s truck massacre in Nice which left 84 people dead and many more injured. The claim has not been verified by officials.

It was the third major Islamist attack which France has suffered in the past 18 months.

French President Francois Hollande said Friday that the new reservists would be called upon to boost the ranks of police and gendarmes.

Details of how to become a reservist were swiftly posted on the national gendarmerie’s website.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve delivers a statement at Hotel de Beauvau in Paris on July 16, 2016 (AFP PHOTO / MATTHIEU ALEXANDRE)
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve delivers a statement at Hotel de Beauvau in Paris on July 16, 2016 (AFP PHOTO / MATTHIEU ALEXANDRE)

Volunteers must be between 17 and 30 years of age, have the right physical and moral aptitude and undergo military training.

They will only be required during the summer period, while the regular reservists are on holiday, said Cazeneuve.

The operational reserve is currently made up of 12,000 volunteers, 9,000 of whom are within the paramilitary police and 3,000 in the regular police force, said Cazeneuve.

“We are going to reinforce the presence of security forces across the country,” he added.

He said the number of security forces deployed to protect the population was nearly 100,000, including 53,000 police, 36,000 para-military police and 10,000 soldiers.

Tunisian Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, 31, on Thursday night ploughed a 19-ton truck into a crowd of people who had been watching Bastille Day fireworks in the French Riviera city, killing 84 and injuring around 300.

After crisis talks in Paris, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian noted that IS had recently repeated calls for supporters to “directly attack the French, Americans, wherever they are and by whatever means.”

“Even when Daesh is not the organiser, Daesh breathes life into the terrorist spirit that we are fighting,” he said, using an Arabic name for IS.

In the wake of its third major terror attack in 18 months, the French government faced searing criticism from opposition politicians and newspapers demanding more than “the same old solemn declarations.”

Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader of the National Front party, called on Cazeneuve to step down.

French far-right National Front (FN) leader Marine Le Pen delivers a speech following the second round of French regional elections in Henin-Beaumont on December 13, 2015. (AFP PHOTO/DENIS CHARLET)
French far-right National Front (FN) leader Marine Le Pen delivers a speech following the second round of French regional elections in Henin-Beaumont on December 13, 2015. (AFP PHOTO/DENIS CHARLET)

“In any other country in the world, a minister with a toll as horrendous as Bernard Cazeneuve — 250 dead in 18 months — would have quit,” she said.

Cazeneuve defended France’s security efforts, saying the country was facing “a new kind of attack” which highlighted “the extreme difficulty of the anti-terrorism fight.”

Speaking as France began three days of mourning on Saturday, he said Lahouaiej-Bouhlel “had not been known to the intelligence services because he did not stand out… by being linked with radical Islamic ideology.”

Police said Saturday they had arrested four more people linked to Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, in addition to his estranged wife who was taken into custody on Friday.

Cazeneuve said the father-of-three “seemed to have been radicalized very quickly, from what his friends and family” have told police.

“We are now confronted with individuals open to IS’s message to engage in extremely violent actions without necessarily having been trained or having the weapons to carry out a mass (casualty) attack.”

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