Tag Archives: Paris

France to Seek State of Emergency Extension to Cover Euro 2016 Football Tournament

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French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has disclosed that the French government plans to extend a state of emergency, which was initially imposed in the wake of the 13 November 2015 attack in Paris, to cover the Euro 2016 football tournament, which the country will host in June.

During a radio interview, the Prime Minister indicated that given the scale of the event, security has to be ensured. He confirmed that Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve will seek other minister’s approval of the extension later on Wednesday 20 April before asking parliament to vote on it, adding “the state of emergency cannot be permanent, but on the occasion of these big events…we have to prolong it.”

The European football competition involves twenty-four national teams and will run from 10 June to 10 July. The proposed two-month extension, which would also cover the Tour de France bicycle race, however will require parliamentary approval. The current state of emergency, which gives police additional powers to carry out searches and place people under house arrest, runs until 26 May. Despite concerns raised by rights groups, who reported that police had abused their powers the state of emergency was extended for an additional three months in February.

The coordinated gun and bomb attacks in Paris in November killed 130 people and were claimed by the so-called Islamic State (IS) group. The Stade de France football stadium, which will host the opening match of Euro 2016 and the final, was targeted by suicide bombers.

Security will be tight at the Euro 2016 tournament, with more than 1,200 security officials deployed for matches at the Stade de France, and an average of 900 across all stadiums in France. On Friday, 15 April, Mr Cazeneuve disclosed that more than 3,500 searches and 400 arrests have been carried out since the state of emergency was first imposed in November.

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Belgian Suspect Charged in Paris Attacks

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On 20 April, Belgian prosecutors announced that a suspect in the 22 March Brussels bombings has been charged with involvement in last year’s attacks in Paris, France. Osama Krayem, a 23-year-old Swedish national, was arrested in Brussels earlier this month. The Belgian judge responsible for the Paris attacks investigation has now charged him with terrorist murder and participating in a terrorist group. According to sources, he is suspected of purchasing the suitcases that were used to carry the Brussels bombs. Krayem was also caught on CCTV with metro bomber Khalid el-Bakraoui shortly before he blew himself up. He is already facing terrorism charges in relation to the Brussels attacks.

According to the Belgian federal prosecutor, Osama Krayem was picked up in Ulm in southern Germany by a hire car that was retuned by key Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam and had travelled to Belgium. The prosecutor disclosed that ‘The investigation showed that (Krayem) could be placed in different safe houses used by the terrorist group,” including a location in Schaerbeek. Krayem grew up in Malmo in southwestern Sweden. According to a relative, her nephew “just disappeared” and later phoned his family to say that he had left to join the so-called Islamic State (IS) group. Last week, his lawyers disclosed that he was co-operating with the authorities.

In March, three suicide bombers killed 32 people at Zaventem airport and the Maelbeek metro station in Brussels, Belgium.   He attacks occurred just days after the arrest in Brussels of Salah Abdeslam, who had been on the run for four months. Officials believe that the attacks in Brussels may have been moved up over concerns that Abdeslam would give critical information about the terrorist cell to authorities.

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IS Carries out Major Attack in Brussels Days after Main Fugitive in Paris Attacks is Arrested

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At least 31 people have been killed and dozens injured in attacks that targeted Brussels international airport and a metro station in the city. Authorities have warned that the death toll is likely to go up in the coming days as many of the injured are in serious condition. The so-called Islamic State (IS) group issued a statement on the IS-linked Amaq agency claiming responsibility for the attack.

Twin blasts targeted Zaventem international airport at about 08:00 local time (07:00 GMT), killing at least 11 people. The Belgian prosecutor has indicated that “probably a suicide bomber” was involved. The state-owned Belga news agency has reported that shots were fired and shouts in Arabic were heard before the two explosions. Some witnesses indicated that after the first blast, people fled only to get caught in the second blast. Public broadcaster VRT has reported that an assault rifle was found next to a dead attacker, with private broadcaster VTM adding that an unexploded bomb belt had been found. The airport is located 11 kilometres (7 miles) northeast of Brussels and last year, it dealt with more than 23 million passengers.

An hour later, shortly after 08:00 GMT, another explosion occurred at Maelbeek metro station during rush hour. The explosion struck the middle carriage of a three-carriage train while it was moving away from the platform. At least 20 people were killed in that attack. The station is located close to a number of European Union (EU) institutions. The European Commission, which is the EU’s executive arm, has told employees to remain indoors or at home. All meetings at EU institutions have been cancelled.

In the wake of the attacks, Belgium raised its terrorism alert to its highest level. Three days of national mourning have been declared. While the airport and the entire public transport system in Brussels is closed, some train stations are due to reopen shortly. All fights have been diverted. Eurostar has cancelled all trains to and from Brussels while the Thalys France-Benelux rain operator has indicated that the entire network is closed.

Across Europe, countries have also quickly reacted to Tuesday’s attacks. In the United Kingdom, security was increased at Gatwick and Heathrow airports, while the Foreign Office has advised British nationals to avoid crowded areas in Belgium. UK Prime Minister David Cameron also chaired a meeting of the Cobra response committee on Tuesday.

In France, officials have stepped up security, while the cabinet held an emergency meeting. French President Francois Hollande held a brief conference, where he stated that “the terrorists have stuck Belgium but it is Europe that was targeted. And it is the whole world that is concerned with this.”

Interpol on Friday warned that accomplices may try to flee across frontiers now that Salah Abdeslam was in custody.

The bombings come just four days after Salah Abdeslam, the main fugitive in the 13 November 2015 attacks in Paris, was seized during a raid in Brussels.

The 26-year-old French national, born in Belgium, spent four months on the run. It is believed that he fled shortly after the November attacks, returning to the Molenbeek district of Brussels. Investigators believe that he helped with logistics, including renting rooms and driving suicide bombers to the Stade de France. He was arrested 500 m from his home in Molenbeek. His brother, Brahim, was one of the Paris attackers who blew himself up.

Friday’s raid came after Abdeslam’s fingerprints were found in a flat in another Brussels district, Forest, which was raided on Tuesday.

On 20 March, Belgian Foreign minister Didier Reynders suggested that Abdeslam was preparing attacks in Brussels before he was arrested. Paris prosecutor Francois Molins also told reporters on Saturday that Abdeslam had admitted that he wanted to blow himself up during the Paris attacks but then changed his mind. Abdeslam is being interrogated in Belgium following his arrest in Brussels on Friday. Mr Reynders citied information that he said had come to light since Abdeslam’s arrest. He disclosed that Abdeslam “…was ready to restart something in Brussels…And its maybe the reality because we have found a lot of weapons, heavy weapons, in the first investigations and we have found a new network around him in Brussels.” Mr Reynders further disclosed that the number of suspects had risen markedly since the November attacks in Paris, adding “we are sure for the moment we have found more than 30 people involved in the terrorist attacks in Paris, but we are sure there are others.” Belgian authorities have charged Abdeslam with terrorism offenses. He is being held at a high-security jail in the Belgian city of Bruges. Abdeslam is now fighting extradition to France, which could take up to three months.

Another man arrested at the same time as Abdeslam on Friday, Monir Ahmed Alaaj, has also been charged with participation in terrorist murder and the activities of a terrorist group. Prosecutors have disclosed that Alaaj, who was injured during Friday’s arrests, had travelled with Abdeslam to Germany last October, where his fingerprints were taken during an identity check

While European security experts have been braced for another attack for months, such attacks continue to have a huge shock when it actually happens. If Tuesday’s attack in Brussels is what many have termed “revenge” for Friday’s arrest of Salah Abdeslam, it will be a source of great concern of authorities in the country as a functioning terrorist network was able to respond so quickly with such devastating effect. Over the weekend, Abdeslam’s lawyer disclosed that he was cooperating with Belgian authorities. It is therefore possible that a cell linked to Abdeslam brought forward the timing of a future attack in the believe that he might blow their cover. Either way, this attack shows how advanced the planning was in terms of logistics, explosives, weapons and people willing to carry out such attacks on civilian targets. Furthermore, while the priority of Belgian officials will now be to ensure that anyone else who poses an imminent threat to the public is apprehended as soon as possible, it is evident that Brussels is seen as a soft target in a county that continues to have huge gaps in intelligence.

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France to Stage Mock Fan Zone Attack as it Prepares to Host Euro 2016

Posted on in 2016 UEFA Euro Cup - Security Update title_rule

According to sources, officials and security services from the football tournament’s ten host cities will take part in the counter-terrorism exercise, which is due to take place on 16 March in the southern city of Nimes.

Fan zones are thought to be areas that are at most risk as thousands of supporters from France and the twenty-three other competing nations congregate in confined spaces.

Last year, France endured several terror attacks, including the November coordinated attacks in Paris, which resulted in the deaths of 130 people. One of the targets was the Stade de France, which is the venue for the 10 July final game. On 13 November, three suicide bombers detonated their devices outside the stadium as France played Germany, killing themselves and one other person. At least one of the bombers reportedly tried to enter the stadium but was turned away.

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French MP’s Vote on Constitution Changes in Wake of Paris Attacks

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On Wednesday, French MP’s voted overwhelming to change state-of-emergency provisions in the constitution, which were drawn up after the November 2015 terror attacks in Paris.

The lower house voted 317-199 in order to adopt the package of measures, which includes changes to give a new status under the constitution to the state of emergency, which is currently in force. There were 51 abstentions. The package of measures also allows terror convicts to be stripped of their citizenship. The package will now go to the Senate before a meeting of the joint houses of parliament. It needs support from the Senate and will then have to be approved by a two-thirds vote of a joint session of parliament, which is likely to take weeks or months. Nevertheless, Wednesday’s vote is a significant victory for the French government, which has faced opposition from leading voices, and some from amongst its own ranks. Speaking shortly after the vote, Prime Minister Manuel Valls disclosed that he was “satisfied” with the result and that he was confident that senators would also approve the changes.

In the wake of the 13 November 2015 terror attacks in Paris by gunmen and suicide bombers who targeted a concert hall, a major stadium, restaurants and bars, leaving 130 people dead and hundreds wounded, French President Francois Hollande promised changes as his government seeks to ensure the French people that they are safe, despite growing threats and several previous attacks and thwarted attempts.

Several government officials however are opposed to the new changes. Two weeks ago, France’s left-wing justice minister, Christian Taubira, resigned, citing a “major political disagreement” with the government. She was amongst several political figures who objected to the government’s proposals because they singled out those with dual nationality. Despite the opposition, government whips have indicated that they are confident of a majority in the lower house. However it must be noted that even if they are correct, there is still a long parliamentary battle that lies ahead.

Under the current terms of the state of emergency, which has been in place since 13 November, police are allowed to raid homes and hold people under house arrest. The state of emergency is due to expire on 26 February, however the government wants the powers extended. Under Article 1 of the constitutional reform proposals, MP’s will have to approve a state of emergency beyond twelve days. This rule is already observed, but including it in the constitution is intended to protect it from legal challenges. MP’s have also backed an amendment requiring any extension beyond four months to be referred back to them. On Tuesday, the chamber was only a quarter full during the vote, with 441 deputies absent out of a total of 577. The house later voted through the proposal on nationality however the amendment does not mention dual nationality.

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