France on top terror alertfor D-Day ceremonies

1st June 2004, Comments 0 comments

CAEN, France, June 1 (AFP) - France on Tuesday boosted a security plan to protect the 17 heads of state and government who will be attending ceremonies at the weekend marking the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings in northwest France.

CAEN, France, June 1 (AFP) - France on Tuesday boosted a security plan to protect the 17 heads of state and government who will be attending ceremonies at the weekend marking the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings in northwest France.

The Vigipirate programme was stepped up to level "red" across the country, interior ministry officials said, triggering random searches at railway stations, beefed-up patrols and the constitution of stocks of fresh water.

France has also resumed border controls, which is permitted under the Schengen agreement on free circulation of movement within the European Union when public order or national security require it, officials said.

A week ago level "red" - the second highest alert - was introduced in the Lower Normandy area where the weekend's ceremonies will be attended by among others US President George W. Bush, Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

The French authorities are mounting a major security operation for June 6, mindful that the concentration of world leaders and the enormous publicity given to the event make it a terrorist target of high risk.

Batteries of Crotale surface-to-air missiles have been installed along the coastline, and an AWACS surveillance aircraft will overfly the scene Sunday. Mirage-2000 jet fighters and helicopters will be on alert at nearby air-bases to intervene if necessary.

Off-shore a naval detachment consisting of a mine-hunter, helicopter-carrier and six patrol-boats will enforce a maritime exclusion zone extending the length of the D-Day beaches. A commando unit and a team of divers will be on stand-by.

And on land the army is deploying more than 2,000 troops to help secure the main commemoration sites at Arromanches, the US cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, Caen and Bayeux. They will be supporting some 6,300 gendarmes, and more than 2,250 police.

Altogether the French defence ministry says some 9,000 army, navy and air-force personnel will be deployed, with a further 1,000 taking part in the actual ceremonies.

From 6:00 am to 8:00 pm on Sunday the hinterland of the D-Day beaches from Isigny in the west to Merville-Franceville in the east will become a restricted zone, with only traffic bearing an authorised sticker able to circulate.

The key ceremony sites, which are already being patrolled, will from June 5 be "sanctuarised" - in other words totally off-limits to all who do not bear a pass. Veterans and journalists had till last week to acquire their accreditation, but the lists are now closed.

From June 5 to 7 an air exclusion zone will be in place over the area, which will be monitored from an 850-man mobile radar and communications unit installed at the Carpiquet airport outside Caen. VIPs will be landing at Carpiquet, Deauville and Cherbourg airports.

"Our job is to make sure any terrorist attempt is doomed to failure," said base commander General Charles Ricour.

At sea the maritime authorities have banned all boats from off the beaches, and swimming and fishing are also forbidden over the weekend. A naval display led by the French aircraft-carrier Charles de Gaulle will be staged as part of the international ceremony at Arromanches.

© AFP

Subject: French news

 

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