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TERRORISM

France foils seven terror attacks foiled since start of 2017 as state of emergency is extended once again

Seven terror plots have been foiled in France since the start of the year, Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said Thursday before French MPs voted through the final extension of the country's state of emergency.

France foils seven terror attacks foiled since start of 2017 as state of emergency is extended once again
A soldier takes part in a counter-terrorism training exercise on a TGV train in France. Photos: AFP

“Since the start of the year we've stopped seven plots which could have caused many deaths,” Collomb told CNews television channel.

He said a plot had been thwarted in the southern city of Marseille in April, a week before presidential elections, and could have had “dreadful” consequences, he said.

However a policeman was shot dead on the Champs-Elysées in Paris by an Isis sympathizer just days before the first round of the presidential election on April 23rd.

There have also been other attempted attacks on police and soldiers at Notre-Dame cathedral, the Louvre gallery, Orly airport and again on the Champs-Elysées since the start of 2017.

The extension of the state of emergency was approved on Thursday by the lower house of parliament.

It has been in place since November 2015 after a string of attacks in Paris left 130 dead, and has already been extended several times to cover events such as Euro2016 and the French elections.

New President Emmanuel Macron on Monday vowed to end the state of emergency “this autumn” by introducing a new security law which includes many of the emergency measures.

Twelve human rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch called on lawmakers on Wednesday to drop the state of emergency and reject the new law.

Collomb said the law would enable the government to close down mosques where imams are deemed to be condoning terrorism. Closures could be ordered for six months at a time, on a rolling basis.

“Today there are three (mosques) that we want to close… since the start of the state of emergency we've closed 16,” he said.

French counter-terror police regularly stage simulations of terror attacks for training exercises in order to prepare for all eventualities.

Last month they staged an operation that simulated an attack on a TGV train (see pics below).

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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