12 March 2004
PARIS – France has raised its national anti-terrorist alert footing, deploying armed military to help guard key public areas, following Thursday’s multiple bombings in Madrid that left at least 198 people dead and another 1,400 wounded.
With effect from Friday, the Vigipirate alert level was raised from yellow to orange, Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin’s office announced. Under the new alert level, soldiers will reinforce police patrols in stations, airports and maritime ports, and on public transport.
The Vigipirate security plan has four levels, beginning with yellow, moving to orange, red and scarlet.
“The orange level is aimed at preventing the risk of a criminal or terrorist act which is considered possible,” said a statement isuued by Raffarin’s office. “A number of measures will therefore be implemented, including the reinforcement of police forces with military, to boost security on public transport in particular.”
French President Jacques Chirac held a national security meeting Friday morning with Raffarin and his inner cabinet to discuss the measures.
France announced immediately after the Madrid bombings on Thursday morning it had increased increase police numbers at frontier posts on the Franco-Spanish border, notably at Biriatou, in the Basque region.
Raffarin was due in Madrid later Friday to take part in a demonstration called by the Spanish government in support of the victims of the rail bomb blasts, along with French Socialist opposition leader Francois Hollande and the mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe.
French Justice Minister Dominique Perben was due to join a similar demonstration in Spain’s Basque region.
Meanwhile, President Chirac ordered flags on public buildings to be flown at half mast Friday in a mark of respect for the Madrid victims.
Several trade unions called for a rally in Paris on Friday evening in solidarity with the Spanish people and the Archbishop of Paris, Jean-Marie Lustiger, is to celebrate a special mass to remember the Madrid victims on Saturday evening.
© Expatica France with reports from AFP
Subject: France news