• France's news in English
France deploys 300 extra soldiers after attacks
Hundreds of extra soldiers will be on duty across France over Christmas. Photo: AFP

France deploys 300 extra soldiers after attacks

The Local/AFP · 23 Dec 2014, 13:29

Published: 23 Dec 2014 13:29 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit


  • Three attacks in three days leaves France on edge
  • PM announces up to 300 extra soldiers to be deployed over Christmas
  • One of those injured in Nantes Christmas market attack by driver has died
  • Terrorism has been ruled out in both driver rampages in Nantes/Dijon
  • PM Manuel Valls calls for "unity" to fight "hatred and intolerance"

Prime Minister Manuel Valls sought to ease concerns in France on Tuesday over a spate of seemingly unrelated but bloody attacks, saying up to 300 soldiers would be deployed around the country to ensure security.

While the motives behind the incidents -- a knife attack on police and two cases of cars ploughing into passers-by -- remain unclear, the violence has jarred nerves after repeated jihadist calls for "lone wolf" action in France over its fight against Islamic extremism.

"The number of patrols will be increased during this (Christmas) period. Two hundred to 300 extra soldiers will be deployed in the coming hours" on top of the 780 already on patrol, he said live on television.

Above all Valls appealed to the country to stay together.

'We must fight hatred and intolerance'

“I appeal for unity and national harmony,” he said. “Democracy is never stronger against violence and terrorism than when it respects and promotes its own values. All of our society must mobilize against radical violence and the rise of hatred and intolerance”.

Valls and the Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve will travel to Nantes on Tuesday a day after a driver mowed down shoppers at a Christmas market in the city.

Authorities have been eager to stress there were no apparent terrorist motives in Monday night's attack in Nantes, describing the perpetrator as "unbalanced".

And on Sunday a man shouting "Allahu Akbar" drove into pedestrians on the streets of the eastern city of Dijon, injuring 13. There too, authorities said the driver was suffering from a severe psychological disorder.

On Saturday, a man was shot dead by police after walking into a police station in the central town of Joue-les-Tours and attacking three officers with a knife. He too had yelled "Allahu Akbar".

Authorities have for months been on tenterhooks over the threat of violence inspired by Islamic extremism.

In September, the radical Islamic State group that controls swathes of Iraq and Syria urged Muslims around the world to kill "in any manner" those from countries involved in a coalition fighting its jihadists, singling out the French.

Among instructions detailing how to kill civilians or military personnel was to "run him over with your car".

However, while the attack on police appears more likely to have been motivated by Islamist extremism, in the case of both drivers local prosecutors have described the perpetrators as “unbalanced” individuals with a record of psychiatric illness.

The driver in Nantes tried to commit suicide by stabbing himself repeatedly once he had crashed his van and in Dijon the driver had reportedly visited a psychiatric hospital 157 times.

Even if the motive is not terrorism and there is no established link between the incidents there is a concern there may be other copycat acts, especially around the festive season.

"Unbalanced individuals can act. They can be receptive to or influenced by propaganda messages or the power of images," said. Valls.

Thierry Spitz, regional secretary of the police union Alliance, said he was worried about the series of events.

Story continues below…

"[Nantes] was an isolated act, once again by an unbalanced person. But that's exactly what worries us a bit. With the media coverage, we risk a repeat of this kind of fact and that is rather worrying," he told AFP.

Minimising risk?

The government faced criticism on Tuesday that it was minimising the threat, at a time when more than 1,000 nationals are thought be involved in jihad on home soil, or in Syria and Iraq.

Saturday's assailant Bertrand Nzohabonayo was not on a domestic intelligence watch-list but his brother Brice is well known for his radical views and was arrested in Burundi soon after the incident.

Nzohabonayo's mother had also told authorities that she was worried about Brice's radicalisation and "the influence he could have on his brother Bertrand," said Paris prosecutor Francois Molins, whose office is in charge of the probe.

The assailant in Dijon, meanwhile, had taken an interest in religion and started wearing a djellaba -- a long robe worn in Muslim countries -- just a week ago, according to his mother.

The Local/AFP (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
A market in Eymet, southwestern France. Photo: AFP

Foreigners in France explain how life has changed over the years.

London calling for Calais youths, but only a chosen few
Photo: AFP

Dozens of Calais minors are still hanging their hopes on help from the UK, but not all will be so lucky.

17 different ways to talk about sex in French
Photo: Helga Weber/Flickr

Fancy a quick run with the one-legged man?

Yikes! This is what a rat-infested French jail looks like
Photo: YouTube/France Bleu TV.

This video is not for sufferers of ratophobia (or musophobia as the condition is officially called).

France to allow Baby Jesus in Town Halls this Christmas
Photo: AFP

Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus are safe to go on display again this year, it seems.

National Front posts locations of migrants in French town
The National Front courts controversy. Photo: AFP

"Local tax payers have a right to know," says local far-right party chief.

Paris thieves use tear gas to steal €500,000 of watches
Photo: AFP

The thieves pretended to be couriers then threatened staff with tear gas to get the watches.

Bataclan survivor recounts attack in chilling drawings
Photo: BFMTV screengrab

One survivor has recounted the horrific night through illustrations.

Anger among French police grows as Hollande vows talks
French police demonstrate on the Champs Elysées. Photo: AFP

A fourth night of protests shows government efforts to ease anger among French police have been fruitless.

UK border must move back, says 'next French president'
Photo: AFP

If favourite Alain Juppé is elected, Britain and France are in for some difficult negotiations.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
The ups and downs of being both French and English
How Brexit vote has changed life for expats in France
Twelve French insults we'd love to have in English
What's on in France: Ten of the best events in October
jobs available