France on alert for more terror amid Muslim protests

Ministers warn of security risk after 2nd fatal knife attack; more soldiers to protect key sites

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France stepped up security nationwide on Friday to guard against new Islamist attacks following the fatal stabbings at a church in Nice, while Muslims in other countries protested in the streets over perceived French slights to the Prophet Muhammad.
Police officers on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris yesterday, the first day of a national Covid-19 lockdown. President Emmanuel Macron has increased the number of soldiers mobilised from 3,000 to 7,000 to protect important sites such as places of
France has warned its citizens they face a security risk "everywhere" in the world in the wake of the attack. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

PARIS • France's Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said yesterday more militant attacks on its soil were likely and the country was engaged in a war against Islamist ideology following the second deadly knife attack in its cities in two weeks.

"We are in a war against an enemy that is both inside and outside," Mr Darmanin told RTL radio.

"We need to understand that there have been and there will be other events such as these terrible attacks."

Mr Darmanin was speaking a day after an assailant shouting "Allahu Akbar" ("God is greatest") beheaded a woman and killed two other people in a church in Nice.

The man was shot by police and is in critical condition in hospital.

His comments came as tens of thousands of Muslims protested in Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Palestinian territories yesterday after the killings in a French church prompted a vow from President Emmanuel Macron to stand firm against attacks on French values and freedom of belief.

Thursday's attack, on the birthday of Prophet Muhammad, took place at a time of growing Muslim anger across the globe at France's defence of the right to publish cartoons depicting the Prophet.

France has warned its citizens they face a security risk "everywhere" in the world in the wake of the attack, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said yesterday.

Mr Macron has refused to back down. "If we're attacked, once again, it's for our values, our taste for liberty, the possibility on our soil to believe freely," he said on Thursday, after speaking to police and emergency staff at the Notre-Dame basilica in Nice.

"We will give up nothing."

The French President has increased the number of soldiers mobilised for internal security operation Sentinelle to 7,000 from 3,000 to protect important sites such as places of worship and schools.

He was set to convene a security Cabinet yesterday.

France's chief anti-terrorism prosecutor said the man suspected of carrying out the Nice attack was a Tunisian born in 1999 who had arrived in Europe on Sept 20 in Lampedusa, the Italian island off Tunisia that is a main landing point for migrants from Africa.

A Tunisian security source and a French police source named the suspect as Brahim Aouissaoui.

A French judicial source said yesterday that a 47-year-old man had been taken into custody on Thursday evening on suspicion of having been in contact with the perpetrator of the attack.

Meanwhile, in Pakistan, police fired tear gas at thousands of demonstrators marching towards the French Embassy in Islamabad.

Tens of thousands staged a similar march through Dhaka, chanting "Boycott French products" and carrying banners calling Mr Macron "the world's biggest terrorist".

In a Muslim-majority district of India's financial hub Mumbai, some 100 posters showing Mr Macron with a boot on his face and calling him a "demon" were pasted on pavements and roads.

Protests were also held in Afghanistan, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories and Somalia.

But several leaders expressed support for France.

"It is just the most callous and cowardly and vicious act of barbarism by terrorists and should be condemned in the strongest possible way," said Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also voiced support for Mr Macron's position and condemned the violence.

United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet decried yesterday the "vicious" attacks in France, but urged political leaders to take a hard stance against "hate speech".



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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 31, 2020, with the headline France on alert for more terror amid Muslim protests. Subscribe