Paris police to be equipped with assault rifles

Riot police officers deploy outside the "Salon de l'Agriculture" (Agriculture Fair) in Paris on the opening day over the weekend.
Riot police officers deploy outside the "Salon de l'Agriculture" (Agriculture Fair) in Paris on the opening day over the weekend.PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP) - Parisian police will be given assault rifles and Kalashnikov-resistant shields in a first for the French capital's officers nearly four months after a devastating terror attack killed 130 people, the interior minister said Monday.

The weapons, up until now reserved for elite intervention forces, will allow members of certain police units "to intervene as fast as possible to reinforce the first patrols, notably when we are confronted with mass killings," said the minister Bernard Cazeneuve.

"Some of the criminals you are confronted with no longer hesitate to use heavy weapons against you, and you must be equipped with the means to fire back, and adequate protection," Mr Cazeneuve told officers at a Parisian police station.

The anti-criminal (BAC) police units, who most often operate in plain clothes, will be given 204 Heckler and Koch G36 assault rifles, some 1,800 bullet proof vests and 241 shields that are resistant to Kalashnikov bullets.

The new equipment, which also includes Taser guns and other items, is worth 17 million euros (S$26 million).

The boosting of police capability comes after extremist gunmen armed with Kalashnikovs and suicide bombers attacked a concert hall and several restaurants and cafes around Paris on November 13, killing 130 and leaving hundreds injured.

A member of the BAC police units - armed only with a handgun - was the first to arrive on scene at the Bataclan concert hall where he shot dead one of the extremists who killed 90 people during a show.

However he was forced to retreat and await specialised police officers as he was not sufficiently equipped against the two attackers still alive in the building.

The devastating attack saw authorities put in place a state of emergency which has been extended until the end of May.