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France increases security measures

Public transport and major buildings protected after jihadist group’s threat of revenge attacks for Mali intervention

14 January 2013

SECURITY is being tightened on public transport, at major events with large crowds and round public buildings to protect against terror revenge attacks for the government’s military intervention against Islamist groups in Mali.

President Hollande ordered increased surveillance of public places after threats from Al-Qaida au Maghreb Islamique (Aqmi) and Ansar Dine. One jihadist group said France “has attacked Islam” and promised “We will strike at the heart of France.”

Hollande said troops would remain “for as long as necessary” to clear "terrorist groups, drug traffickers and extremists" in the north of the country. Interim Malian President Dioncounda Traore had declared a state of emergency and asked for help.

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said the Vigipirate security plan remains at Code Red “for the moment” and immediate measures were being taken to secure air and rail transport links and to protect public buildings.

The Red level is to take « necessary measures to avert the proven risk of serious attacks”. Apart from increased visible security in the streets, there will be increased bag and handbag searches in large stores and public buildings such as museums, galleries and government offices.

However, Code Red also provides for the banning of large-scale festive, sport and cultural events if necessary.

Vigipirate has been at Red since July 7, 2005 and passed to Scarlet in March 2012 in Midi-Pyrénées and neighbouring departments after the murders committed by Mohamed Merah.

France has called a meeting of the United Nations Security Council to discuss the conflict in Mali and Hollande spoke to British Prime Minister David Cameron on Saturday to get UK backing for his plan and "logistical military assistance". No British troops will be involved but an RAF C17 took off for Evreux outside Paris and then Mali with supplies.

A French helicopter pilot has been killed in the operation.
Photo: Matthieu Riegler

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