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TERRORISM

UK warns of ‘high threat’ from terrorism’ in France

The UK’s Foreign Office has issued a warning to the millions of Brits who head to France each year that there is a “high threat” from terrorism in the country and mentions the risk of "indiscriminate attacks".

UK warns of 'high threat' from terrorism' in France
The UK has warned of a high threat from terrorism in France. Photo: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP

The UK government has updated its travel advisory for France on its Foreign and Commonwealth Office website to reflect the threat of an indiscriminate terrorist attack in the country.

In its summary of France Foreign Office officials say: "There is a high threat from terrorism. Attacks could be indiscriminate."

“Due to ongoing threats to France by Islamist groups and recent French military intervention against Isis, the French government has warned the public to be extra vigilant and reinforced its own domestic and overseas security measures,” reads the Foreign Office website.

It also mentions previous attacks in France, attributed to Islamist extremists including Mohamed Merah’s shooting spree in Toulouse and Montauban in March 2012 and a knife attack on a soldier at La Defense business district near Paris.

The new warning from the UK comes after Isis extremists issued a call to followers last month to launch attacks against the “dirty and spiteful” French after Paris joined the coalition taking part in air strikes on Isis in northern Iraq.

In a chilling threat distributed via social media in several languages, Isis urged Muslims around the globe to kill French people, Americans and nationals of any country in the coalition targeting the Islamic extremists. 

“If you can kill a disbelieving American or European – especially the spiteful and filthy French – or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then (do so),” Islamic State in Syria and Iraq said.

After the beheading of French tourist Hervé Gourdel in Algeria France then responded by stepping up security in public places and on public transport.

Extra patrols will take place at airports and train stations as well as at well-known tourist sites and shopping centres in the country.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the beheading calls for a “strong response abroad and at home to protect our citizens."

SEE ALSO: France is the 'terrorism capital of Europe'

A spokesman for the Foreign and Commonwealth office in London told The Local on Monday that the updated travel alert was “not meant as any criticism” of France and a decision whether to visit the country “rests with individuals”.

“The warning is our best assessment of the situation and is in line with current statements from France about the risk,” said the spokesman. "We cooperate extremely closely with France."

“People visiting France should refer to our travel advice. The decision is always up to the individual,” he added.

The Foreign Office website adds that 17 million UK citizens visit France every year and “most of these visits are trouble free”.

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TERRORISM

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks

US Vice President Kamala Harris and French Prime Minister Jean Castex laid wreaths at a Paris cafe and France's national football stadium Saturday six years since deadly terror attacks that left 130 people dead.

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks
US Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff lay flowers after ceremonies at Le Carillon bar and Le Petit Cambodge restaurant, at which 130 people were killed during the 2015 Paris terror attacks. Photo: Sarahbeth Maney/POOL/AFP

The attacks by three separate teams of Islamic State group jihadists on the night of November 13, 2015 were the worst in France since World War II.

Gunmen mowed down 129 people in front of cafes and at a concert hall in the capital, while a bus driver was killed after suicide bombers blew themselves up at the gates of the stadium in its suburbs.

Harris, wrapping up a four-day trip to France, placed a bouquet of white flowers in front of a plaque honouring the victims outside a Paris cafe.

Castex attended a minute of silence at the Stade de France football stadium, along with Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, before laying wreaths at the sites of the other attacks inside Paris.

In front of the Bataclan concert hall, survivors and relatives of the victims listened to someone read out the names of each of the 90 people killed during a concert there six years ago.

Public commemorations of the tragedy were called off last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Last year we weren’t allowed to come and we all found it really tough,” said Bruno Poncet, who made it out alive of the Bataclan.

But he said the start of a trial over the attacks in September meant that those attending the commemoration this year felt more united.

‘Overcome it all’

“We’ve really bonded thanks to the trial,” he said. “During previous commemorations, we’d spot each other from afar without really daring to speak to each other. We were really shy. But standing up in court has really changed everything.”

The marathon trial, the biggest in France’s modern legal history, is expected to last until May 2022.

Twenty defendants are facing sentences of up to life in prison, including the sole attacker who was not gunned down by police, Salah Abdeslam, a French-Moroccan national who was captured in Brussels. Six of the defendants are being tried in absentia.

Poncet said he felt it was crucial that he attend the hearings. “I can’t possibly not. It’s our lives that are being discussed in that room, and it’s important to come to support the others and to try to overcome it all.”

Survivors have taken to the witness stand to recount the horror of the attacks, but also to describe life afterwards.

Several said they had been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, grappling with survivor’s guilt, or even feeling alienated from the rest of society.

Saturday’s commemorations are to wrap up with a minute of silence at the Stade de France in the evening before the kick-off for a game between France and Kazakhstan.

It was during a football match between France and Germany that three suicide bombers blew themselves up in 2015.

Then-French president Francois Hollande was one of the 80,000 people in the crowd, before he was discreetly whisked away to avoid triggering mass panic.

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