French resort under lock-down ahead of G8

23rd May 2011, Comments 0 comments

It has become as familiar a sight at G8 summits as a group photo of seven men and Angela Merkel in suits -- the French resort of Deauville is locked down behind a massive security blanket.

After last year's Toronto G8, where Canadian authorities were criticised for the lavish expense of hosting the event, France's Nicolas Sarkozy vowed to organise a more low key summit in tune with the era of austerity.

But -- with the world's intelligence agencies fearful of revenge attacks in the wake of the death of Osama Bin Laden, and Sarkozy's popularity at a low ebb at home -- impressive means have been deployed.

French authorities will mobilise 12,252 police, gendarmes and troops, backed by naval patrol boats in the Channel and surveillance aircraft overhead, to protect the leaders of the world's eight big developed powers.

Still a popular getaway for the wealthy Parisian bourgeosie, Deauville has several grand seafront hotels that can hold the leaders and their delegations inside what officials dub a series of concentric "security bubbles".

Police will patrol the rolling hills around the town on horseback and moutainbikes, and police climbers from the Alps have been drafted in case protesters try to scale the nearby Tancarville and Normandie bridges.

A GIGN special forces team is on standby, and the army has a military command post on the green 110-metre (350-foot) Canisy hill that overlooks the town.

The worst case scenario would be a bomb attack of the type that recently killed eight French tourists in Morocco, but officers are also on their guard for less deadly but still unruly anti-globalism activists.

Nevertheless, local governor and police chief Didier Lallement has said he wants to avoid setting up a barbed-wire and sand-bag ring of steel like those that have marred the appearance of previous summit host cities.

And, with the impressive security cordon in place well-publicised, protest groups have said marches will be held in Le Havre -- on the other bank of the Seine -- and far away in Paris and Berlin.

© 2011 AFP

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