10,000 troops to be deployed across France following Paris attacks

#ParisAttacks

President Hollande aims to impose state of emergency for three months after amending 1955 law

Mounted police officers patrol in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris following the attacks (AFP)
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Monday 16 November 2015 11:00 UTC
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French Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Sunday afternoon pledged to deploy 10,000 soldiers throughout France, with between 4,000 and 5,000 to be put on the streets of Paris alone.

This number will supplement the 7,000 troops which have already been deployed since the January Charlie Hebdo attacks in which gunmen killed 17 people, Valls’ office said in a statement.

The announcement follows on from the worst attack to hit France since the Second World War, with seven attackers on Friday killing 132 people across the French capital.

President Francois Hollande now aims to amend the laws governing the state of emergency to allow it to be extended for up to three months, parliamentary sources told French daily L'Express on Sunday evening.

The president of the senate, Gerard Larcher, confirmed to the paper that Hollande intends to modify the 1955 State of Emergency law, which gives the state the power to impose curfews, forbid gatherings, conduct house raids without judicial oversight and enforce censorship.

The law, which was brought into force just a few hours after the attacks began Friday, was first formulated to allow French authorities to crack down on the Algerian independence struggle and was last used in 2005 during countrywide riots stemming from complaints over social inequality and perceived police brutality.

Security operations are now continuing throughout France as well as in Belgium, Greece and Germany as European authorities try to hunt down those responsible for the bloody attack, which has since been claimed by the Islamic State.

Three brothers are now known to have been involved, sources close to the investigation said Sunday. One brother died in the attacks late Friday, the sources said. The second brother is in custody in Belgium although it is unclear whether he took part in the rampage.

French police Sunday released a photograph of the third brother, naming him as 26-year-old Salah Abdeslam, who is also under an international arrest warrant issued by Belgium.

Asking for any information leading to his capture, the alert said Abdeslam "may have been involved in the Paris attacks" and warned that he is considered a "dangerous individual".

At least seven people have been arrested in Belgium in connection with the attack, with early indications suggesting that at least part of it was organised in Brussels. According to Belgian prosecutors two of the attackers were Frenchmen who had been living in Belgium. 

The first round of arrests that took place Saturday focused on the suburb of Molenbeek, which has had previous links to terrorism.

Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon has vowed to “clean up” Molenbeek, with Belgium police launching an official terrorism investigation.

The links to Belgium were unearthed when one of the cars believed to have been used by an attacker was found to have a Belgian parking ticket inside. Two other cars that were used by attackers were also rented in Belgium.



This picture shows a general view of the vicinity of a police intervention to arrest people in connection with the deadly attacks in Paris (AFP)

Another vehicle believed to have been used by one of the gunmen who fired at people in restaurants Friday was found in the north-western Paris suburb of Montreuil Sunday. Several AK-47 rifles of the sort used during the attacks in Paris were found in the car, a judicial source told AFP. 

So far, only one of the attackers has been identified. Paris-born, 29-year-old Omar Ismail Mostefai blew himself up at the Bataclan concert hall, scene of one of the attacks. It is not yet known if he is part of the network of brothers linked to the incident, but seven people close to him, including his father and 34-year-old brother, have been taken into custody by police for questioning. A source close to the probe said investigators were searching the homes of Mostefai’s friends and relatives.

Investigators said Mostefai, whose identity was confirmed using a severed fingertip, was known to have links to radical Islam but had never previously been linked to terrorism.

An arrest has also taken place in Germany, with police quizzing a man who was taken into custody days before the Paris attacks for having explosives and Kalashnikovs in his car. The 51-year-old man from Montenegro told police he was going to Paris "to see the Eiffel Tower" but he has refused to discuss attacks, police said Sunday.

"We want to talk [about the Paris attacks] with him but he doesn't want to talk. Not about this subject in any case," a spokesman for police in southern Bavaria said.

The British government meanwhile has deployed special forces to back British police on the streets and has also strengthened security at ports and airports. 

"There are tried and tested arrangements in place to give military support," Home Secretary Theresa May told the BBC. 

European Union interior ministers are now set to hold crisis talks in Brussels Friday to tackle security issues. 

"Confronted with barbarism and terrorism, Europe stands united with France," said Etienne Schneider, Luxembourg's internal security minister.

The French government, which is a key part of the US-led anti-Islamic State coalition carrying out air strikes in Iraq and Syria, has vowed to continue the bombing, with Valls on Saturday saying that France would “annihilate” IS.

The United States has said that it plans to intensify coordination with France on a military response in Syria following the attack, a top White House adviser said Sunday.

"First of all, we're clearly going to work very closely with the French in terms of intelligence sharing, also in terms of their military response inside of Syria," deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said.

"The French have been with us in Iraq and Syria and conducting air strikes. I think we want to continue to intensify that coordination."

Internal reactions 

The right-wing opposition leader and former French president Nicholas Sarkozy has lashed out at the present Socialist administration.

His successor, President Francois Hollande, has advanced “a new political strategy for immigration” and “and dramatically modified our security strategy,” Sarkozy said in a statement issued after meeting Hollande.  

Dominique de Villepin, who served as prime minister and interior minister under Sarkozy, also attacked Hollande, telling political radio show Le Grand Jury that it was a "trap" to say France was at war. 
 
"The truth is that they [the attackers] want to divide us and push us into civil war. They want to destroy us. We should learn the lessons of experience. We are in a period where words must be chosen sensibly," he said. 

The far-right National Front leader Marie Le Pen has so far stayed relatively quiet on the matter but could gain political points by once again attacking government policy and advancing a tougher stance on immigration and security. 

“The difference between this and Charlie Hebdo is that then it was journalists and police, symbols and institutions of the republic. These latest attacks were against ordinary people, all and everyone, men, women, children,” Madani Cheurfa, an analyst with Science Po’s research thinktank Cevipov, told The Observer. 

“And they allow the FN and Marine Le Pen to say, ‘I told you so, we’ve been talking about this threat for years but nobody listened, so give us your vote.’”

Other commentators have also suggested that the attacks will force Hollande, a fierce critic of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, to shift gears. 

"The Paris attack could have the effect of forcing Hollande to decide who [Assad or IS] is public enemy number one, leaving number two to one side for the moment," French journalist Pierre Haski wrote in a column for The Guardian. 

"If he makes the subtle shift that many recommend, including military chiefs who feel the French army is overstretched, it will not reduce France’s involvement in the Middle East crisis, but it will reduce its autonomy. Hollande’s singular path may have been derailed by the Paris killers."

New tactics 

Police said they were investigating whether the attackers, who appeared to be "seasoned, at first sight, and well trained," had ever fought in Syria, where IS has proclaimed a caliphate along with territory in neighbouring Iraq.

The at least seven attackers - six of whom blew themselves up and one who was shot by police - are the first ever to carry out suicide bombings on French soil. Unlike those who killed 17 people in Paris in January, they were unknown to security services. They also used the sort of suicide vests normally associated with bombings in the Middle East.

"Suicide vests require a munitions specialist. To make a reliable and effective explosive is not something anyone can do," a former French intelligence chief told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"A munitions specialist is someone who is used to handling explosives, who knows how to make them, to arrange them in a way that the belt or vest is not so unwieldy that the person can't move. And it must also not blow up by accident."

Two Syrian passports were found at the scene, leading to speculation that the attackers arrived in Europe as refugees. Although the documents have now been ruled as fake, speculation is rife about why the attackers took the documents with them.

France has declared three days of national mourning for the dead.