France boosts security at churches at Christmas

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve called on parish authorities to reinforce security measures during the Christmas week.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve called on parish authorities to reinforce security measures during the Christmas week.PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (AFP) - French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has recommended that security be heightened in and around churches at Christmas, following deadly militant attacks in Paris last month.

In a note sent to police and local authorities, the minister called on parish authorities to reinforce security measures next week, police sources said Friday (Dec 18).

A similar recommendation went out earlier this year following a failed attempt to target at least one church in the Paris area in April.

Cazeneuve cited the November 13 attacks in and around Paris in which a total of 130 people were killed and 350 injured, adding that the churches had "symbolic force" as potential targets.

On April 19 Sid Ahmed Ghlam, an Algerian IT student, was arrested in Paris on suspicion of killing a woman who was found shot dead in the passenger seat of her car, and of planning an attack on a church in the Paris suburb of Villejuif.

Prosecutors found documents about Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State at his home.

The terrorist violence began in January with the assault by French nationals against satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

Cazeneuve also called for the number of entrances to churches to be restricted and "to pay particular attention to abandoned packages or bags".

He also stressed the need to inform police of any unusual behaviour.

There are around 45,000 Catholic churches in France as well as 4,000 Protestant and 2,600 evangelical churches.