Ravaged by terror, France extends state of emergency
search

Ravaged by terror, France extends state of emergency

Hollande says call to boost reserve forces paves way for ‘National Guard,’ as state scrambles to reassure public after 3rd major attack

Illustrative: French soldiers on patrol along the famed Promenade des Anglais in Nice, southern France, on Sunday, July 17, 2016, three days after a truck mowed through revelers, killing at least 84 people. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Illustrative: French soldiers on patrol along the famed Promenade des Anglais in Nice, southern France, on Sunday, July 17, 2016, three days after a truck mowed through revelers, killing at least 84 people. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

PARIS (AFP) — French lawmakers voted Wednesday to extend a state of emergency as President Francois Hollande said that a call to boost reserve forces had paved the way towards a “National Guard.”

The government is scrambling to find new ways to assure a jittery population after its third major attack in 18 months saw a truck driver plough into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, killing 84 people.

After seven hours of fraught debate into the night, during which the opposition accused the government of being lax on security, the lower house of parliament voted by 489 to 26 to prolong the state of emergency for a further six months.

It is the fourth time the measures have been extended since Islamic State jihadists struck Paris in November 2015, killing 130 people at restaurants, a concert hall and the national stadium.

Hollande had planned to lift the measures on July 26 but changed tack after the Nice attack by Tunisian Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel.

The Islamic State (IS) group said the Tunisian driver was one of its “soldiers” but investigators say that while he showed a recent interest in jihadist activity, there was no evidence he acted on behalf of IS.

French President Francois Hollande (front C) followed by (from L to R) French National Assembly speaker Claude Bartolone, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere and Prime Minister Manuel Valls, arrives at the Ministry of Interior in Paris on June 15, 2016 for a ceremony to pay a tribute to a French policeman and his partner, who were killed on June 13 by a man claiming allegiance to the Islamic State group / AFP PHOTO / POOL / PHILIPPE WOJAZER
French President Francois Hollande (front C) followed by (from L to R) French National Assembly speaker Claude Bartolone, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere and Prime Minister Manuel Valls, arrives at the Ministry of Interior in Paris on June 15, 2016 for a ceremony to pay a tribute to a French policeman and his partner, who were killed on June 13 by a man claiming allegiance to the Islamic State group / AFP PHOTO / POOL / PHILIPPE WOJAZER

Hollande said that of the 331 people injured in the attack, 15 were still fighting for their lives. The victims came from 38 different nations.

As part of the government’s reaction to the attack — which has exposed it to tough questions over security failures — a call has gone out for volunteers in the reserve forces.

Between current reservists, and the call for more volunteers, “we can say that France, with you, is forming a National Guard,” Hollande said Wednesday on a visit to a military training complex in southwest France.

France’s reserve force comprises civilian volunteers in the police, army and paramilitary police, who can be deployed for specific missions.

Extra police powers

Hollande’s Socialist government had proposed a three-month extension to the state of emergency but relented to demands from the conservative opposition that the tough security laws be kept in place until the end of January.

The laws give the police extra powers to carry out searches and place people under house arrest.

On Wednesday, MPs also voted to allow authorities to search luggage and vehicles without prior approval from a prosecutor and to allow the police to seize data from computers and mobile phones.

The bill now passes to the upper house, the Senate, which was debating it Wednesday afternoon.

With elections due next year, the cross-party solidarity seen after last year’s attack on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket has evaporated.

People gather near flowers placed at a makeshift memorial near the Promenade des Anglais in Nice on July 17, 2016, in tribute to the victims of the Bastille Day attack that left 84 dead.(AFP PHOTO / Valery HACHE)
People gather near flowers placed at a makeshift memorial near the Promenade des Anglais in Nice on July 17, 2016, in tribute to the victims of the Bastille Day attack that left 84 dead. (AFP Photo/Valery Hache)

During a visit to Portugal Tuesday Hollande appealed for greater unity.

“The terrorists want to divide us, to separate us and turn people against each other,” he warned.

The government has defended its response to the jihadist threat, pointing to a raft of new anti-terror laws and the deployment of thousands of troops to patrol the streets.

A recent parliamentary commission of inquiry said however the new laws had had a “limited impact” on security.

‘There will be other attacks’

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Manuel Valls warned the country about the enduring nature of the menace from extremists returning from jihad in the Middle East or becoming radicalized at home, by devouring propaganda on the internet.

“Even if these words are hard to say, it’s my duty to do so: There will be other attacks and there will be other innocent people killed.”

“We must learn to live with this threat,” he told parliament, accusing opponents who suggested the Nice attack could have been thwarted of “lying to the French.”

A policeman stands, watching the truck used for the attack near the scene of an attack after a truck drove onto the sidewalk late Thursday, and plowed through a crowd of revelers who gathered to watch the fireworks in the French resort city of Nice, southern France, Friday, July 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
A policeman stands, watching the truck used for the attack near the scene of an attack after a truck drove onto the sidewalk late Thursday, and plowed through a crowd of revelers who gathered to watch the fireworks in the French resort city of Nice, southern France, Friday, July 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Five people are still being held over the Nice attack. Among them is a 22-year-old man to whom Bouhlel sent a text message minutes before the attack about a pistol he used to fire at the police.

Friends and relatives of the 31-year-old father of three, who had a history of violence, told police he showed no interest in religion until recently.

However, authorities found “very violent” photos on his computer, including of corpses, fighters posing with the IS flag and photos of al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden.

read more:
less
comments
more