Paris in lockdown after newspaper attack

7th January 2015, Comments 0 comments

Troops in railway stations, armed police outside media buildings, ultra-tight security at department stores: Paris became a capital in lockdown after Wednesday's deadly terrorist attack on satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.

The brutal assault by two heavily armed men on the newspaper's office in central Paris cast a chill over the city on the first day of the winter sales.

At renowned department store Galeries Lafayette, security guards battened down the hatches as news spread of the attack that killed 12 people.

"The attackers are still on the run. Your job is to keep your eyes open," said a manager, instructing half a dozen guards in orange vests.

"If they are armed, don't start a war -- hide yourself."

The government raised the capital's alert level to its highest level immediately after the attack and deployed some 500 armed police across the city.

Security was also beefed up at the Printemps department store.

"We are in the process of reinforcing everything. The orders are clear: search everything," said the head of security.

Usually packed with bargain hunters for the start of sales, the aisles were empty.

"There are four times fewer tourists than normal. Those who have come tell us they haven't taken the metro," said Ylhan, a 31-year-old working in a nearby luxury store.

"We are in a country where there is freedom of expression," he said. "It's shocking that we are experiencing this in France. Sirens all day -- it's frightening."

- 'Can't prevent it' -

At the busy Saint Lazare station, about 100 people waited near a deserted platform while bomb experts investigated a suspicious package.

"It's awful, it's awful," said Anne Pajon, a Scot who has lived in Paris for 20 years, having just sent a series of text messages to check on her friends and family.

"It's scary. What's worrying is that we can't do anything. That's terrorism -- it hits whatever we do. We cannot prevent it."

A concerned rail worker said they had been asked to remain vigilant, but "what can you do?"

"If something happens, I just hope that they will not shoot at me."

The interior ministry announced security reinforcements for tourist sites, religious buildings and media houses, with extra soldiers and other security forces deployed.

Armed police were stationed in front of the offices of Agence France-Presse and Le Monde newspaper.

Schools were also on high alert. Trips and outdoor activities have been suspended until further notice by the ministry of education.

"We were told not to stay in front of the school, to go home and avoid forming a visible group in town in the coming hours," said student Clara Delattre, who attends a school in eastern Paris.

© 2015 AFP

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