Paris attacks: All precautions taken to avoid chemical attack, says French minister

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian visits the Italie Deux shopping centre in Paris.
French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian visits the Italie Deux shopping centre in Paris.PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP/REUTERSS) - French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Sunday that a chemical or biological attack "was among the risks" in the wake of the Paris attacks but that all possible precautions to avoid such a scenario had been taken.

He said French authorities were not ruling anything out in the wake of the Paris attacks even though it was "very complicated" for anyone to use chemical weapons.

"All the precautions have been taken to avoid this kind of risk," Le Drian told Europe 1 radio.

French police are investigating the recent theft of medical protective clothing from a hospital in Paris, the Paris public hospital administrator AP-HP has said.

The motive for the theft is unclear but it comes amid heightened fears in France over the risk of biological or chemical terrorism following the Paris attacks.

The disappearance of a "limited number" of "protective clothing elements" from the Necker hospital was discovered on Nov 18, the Assistance Publique-Hopitaux de Paris (AP-HP) said in a statement on Saturday. A report was filed the day after at the local police station, it added.

A spokeswoman for AP-HP reached by Reuters on Sunday declined to provide further details on what equipment was taken.

After the Nov. 13 attacks, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said France could face the risk of chemical or bacterial warfare in its fight against Islamist militants.

The Necker hospital is used by patients possibly suffering from the Ebola virus and as such has a large stock of protective clothing, the AP-HP statement added.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls had on Thursday said that an attack using chemical or biological weapons was possible.

"We must not rule anything out... There is also the risk from chemical or biological weapons," Valls said in the aftermath of the shootings and suicide bombings on Nov13 that killed 130 people.

The government on Saturday issued an authorisation for the army's pharmacies to distribute an antidote for chemical weapons to civilian emergency services in France, ahead of a major UN climate summit in Paris that will bring together world leaders beginning November 30.

Le Drian meanwhile said French jets would be able to launch air strikes on ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) targets in Syria from the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier in the eastern Mediterranean from Monday.

"It will be operational from tomorrow," the minister said.

France has stepped up air strikes against Raqa, ISIS' de facto capital in Syria, since the day after the Paris attacks that were claimed by the extremist group.

The fight against the extremists is "both a war in the shadows and a war on the battlefield," Le Drian said.

It will involve battling a well-organised, brutal force that controls large parts of Syria and Iraq, and "an international terrorist movement that is seeking to strike the Western world".

The equipment was stored in a room locked with a code but accessible to a large number of people. It is checked once a week and security has been increased since, the statement said.