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    French Security Services on High Alert Over Christmas After Year of Terror

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    The French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve has ordered police and security services to be on high alert over the Christmas period, with worshippers to major cathedrals facing pat-down and bag searches at the end of a year that has seen France become the epicenter of the European terror threat.

    Cazeneuve called for "particular vigilance with regard to the masses and Christmas services at which large congregations are concentrated in one place constituting targets of exceptional symbolic force" and calling on diocesan officials to meet the police to discuss extra security measures over Christmas.

    Pierre Machenaud, priest at St. Maclou cathedral in Pontoise, in the fifth arrondissement of Paris told Le Monde that thirty or so parishioners would form teams of four or five to conduct security checks at the cathedral doors, in a move to be followed by well over a hundred other major cathedral across France.

    "The goal is first to be welcoming in these times when we even feel the need of brotherhood and attention to each other," said Judge Vincent Malherbe, an active parishioner, who will lead the operations. "We have taken special precautions," he said.

    Year of Terror

    France has been rocked by a series of terror attacks that began in January 2015, when Saïd and Chérif Kouachi forced their way into the offices of the French satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris and shot 11 people dead, wounding 11 others, before fleeing and killing a policeman outside. They identified themselves as belonging to the Islamist terrorist group Al-Qaeda's branch in Yemen. Both were eventually gunned down in a village, after taking a hostage.

    The shootings were followed by another hostage-taking event involving Amedy Coulibaly who was a close friend of the Kouachi brothers. Coulibaly entered and attacked people in the kosher food superette in Porte de Vincennes where he murdered four Jewish hostages and held fifteen other hostages. Police ended the siege by storming the store and killing Coulibaly.

    ​Then in June, Yassin Salhi, suspected of being a militant Islamist drove his vehicle to work and beheaded his boss. French media reported Thursday that he had been found dead in his prison cell while awaiting trial.

    And — in the worst attack so far — on November 13, when gunmen and suicide bombers hit a concert hall, a major stadium, restaurants and bars, almost simultaneously — and left 130 people dead and hundreds wounded. The attacks were described by President Francois Hollande as an "act of war" organized by Daesh.

    France is on its highest level of alert with up to 150 of the 45,000 cathedrals and churches in the whole country on maximum security over the Christmas period for fear of another indiscriminate attack.

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    Tags:
    terror attack, Christmas, terrorism, high alert, security service, terror threat, November 13, 2015 Paris terrorist attacks, Bernard Cazeneuve, France
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