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article imageFrance on terror alert following three incidents in three days

By Robert Myles     Dec 23, 2014 in World
Nantes - Following three possible terror attacks in three days, the French government has put the nation on terror alert as operation “Vigipirate” swings into action.
The first of a series of incidents occurred Saturday when a suspected Islamist was shot dead by police officers at a police station near Tours in central France after the assailant, armed with a knife, had attacked three officers.
The following day, a 40-year-old man, believed to be a convert to Islam, ploughed a car into a group of pedestrians in the southern city of Dijon, injuring 13 bystanders, two of them seriously.
The Dijon attacker was a known psychiatric patient, reports the Daily Mail, and was believed to be drunk at the time of the attack. Witnesses spoke of the driver having shouted “God is greatest” in Arabic when perpetrating the attack. Police arrested the Dijon attacker, who may face terrorism charges, at the scene.
In the third, and potentially the most serious attack, on Monday evening an attacker drove a van directly into shoppers at a busy Christmas market in France’s sixth largest city, Nantes, located near the mouth of the river Loire in western France. In what appeared to be a copycat attack of the earlier one in Dijon, the van driver was reported to have stabbed himself after driving his vehicle into a group of shoppers, injuring 10, one of whom, French President François Hollande later announced, had died.
In addition to those three serious incidents, at a market in Forville, near Cannes in the south of France, early Tuesday morning, a man armed with a knife and two firearms was arrested, reports Radio Canada.
Authorities in France have been reluctant to attach the terrorism tag to the three attacks, possibly not wishing to do anything that might incite further attacks. Nonetheless, when announcing the death of one of those injured at Nantes, President Hollande told reporters, “We are determined, we are vigilant, we are also in action in the fight against fanaticism [and] terrorism."
Hollande continued, “Even if all the events of recent days don't relate to this single cause, one event that can be viewed clearly as a terrorist act is that at Joué-les-Tours. But we are fully in action and at the same time we want to demonstrate that life goes on."
Security has also been stepped up nationwide as “Vigipirate,” France’s national security alert system, was put into action. French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, announced, Tuesday, that, following the incidents at Joué-les-Tours, Dijon and Nantes, military patrols would be increased over the festive period. The Prime Minister said that while the attacks were all, individually, “serious and worrying, even if there isn’t a connection between these events, I understand the concern of our citizens.”
Over the course of Tuesday between 200 and 300 additional military personnel were mobilized to provide increased security in addition to the existing complement of 780 soldiers assigned to such duties in metropolitan France.
The security would be visible with additional patrols taking place at busy locations such as commercial areas, city centers and railway stations, said Valls. Security will also be upped at important infrastructure installations such as the electricity grid.
The Prime Minister’s approach faced criticism from the far right Front National (FN). Speaking on French radio, RTL, FN vice-president Florian Philippot called on the French government to face the reality and not to minimize the terrorist threat.
"When you see an eagerness [after] each of these dramas to say that there is no link, to tell us that it has no connection with terrorism, with Islamic fundamentalism, I find it quite disturbing," said Philippot.
"What’s expected of the Prime Minister and the Minister of the Interior is that they act, that they take action against radical sermons (...) and with respect to border controls. This is what’s expected of a government, not the crap (sic) and semantics and quiet calls while everyone is perfectly calm anyway," he added.
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