French missiles, jets join D-Day security blanket

1st June 2004, Comments 0 comments

CAEN, May 30 (AFP) - A vast security operation has been put in place to protect the 17 heads of state or government and some 20,000 participants who will be attending ceremonies next week-end to mark the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings in northwest France.

CAEN, May 30 (AFP) - A vast security operation has been put in place to protect the 17 heads of state or government and some 20,000 participants who will be attending ceremonies next week-end to mark the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings in northwest France.

For the day of June 6 - when US President George W. Bush, Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder will be among world leaders paying homage to the war dead - an 80 kilometre (50 mile) stretch of Normandy countryside will be sealed off.

Batteries of Crotale surface-to-air missiles have been installed along the coastline, and an AWACS surveillance aircraft will overfly the scene.

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.

With a total of 18 services - national, bi-national and international - planned between the afternoon of June 5 and the morning of June 7, the concentration of world leaders and the enormous publicity given to the event make it a terrorist target of high risk.

Last week the whole of the Lower Normandy region was put on level "red" in the French government's Vigipirate security plan. The second highest setting - beneath "scarlet" - triggers random searches on trains, restrictions of air space, and the constitution of stocks of drinking water.

The whole of the country will be raised to level "red" from June 5 to 7.

From 6.00 a.m. (04H00 GMT) to 8.00 p.m. on June 6 the hinterland of the D-Day beaches from Isigny in the west to Merville-Franceville in the west 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 new French aircraft-carrier Charles de Gaulle will be staged as part of the international ceremony at Arromanches.

French, British and American aircraft will also perform a fly-past, with a wartime Lancaster, C47 Dakota and two Spitfires bringing up the rear.

Apart from the international service at 3.15 p.m. at Arromanches, the main rendezvous for June 6 are at Colleville-sur-Mer for the Franco-US ceremony, Bayeux for the Franco-British, the Peace Memorial at Caen for the Franco-German, and the Pointe du Hoc cliff-top site for the all-American act of remembrance.

© AFP

Subject: French news

 

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