France’s 'Operation Sentinelle', a domestic military presence that since the January 2015 terrorist attacks have deployed thousands of soldiers to patrol public spaces will be revamped, the French Interior minister announced Tuesday.
FRANCE 24, 22 August 2017 - Speaking to BFM TV, the French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said: “We are going to redefine the mission in order to make it more mobile. That means we might not just have 7,000 soldiers deployed…at fixed positions, but maybe 3,500 at specific posts and 3,500 deployed in a more flexible way.”
He added it would allow patrols to better secure city-wide events, and festivals like the one in the northern city of Lille that traditionally draws tens of thousands of visitors every September, but which last year was canceled due to security concerns.
“I think this is going to be the topic of the next Defense Council meeting,” he added, specifying that the gathering of high-ranking defense and security officials is planned for August 30th.
Multiple soldiers deployed as part of Operation Sentinelle have been targeted in the past few months by terrorist attacks, the latest of which was a car attack against a patrol in the Paris suburb of Levallois-Perret on August 9th.
Collomb also indicated that of the 10,000 new police officers the government is planning to hire over the next five years one of Emmanuel Macron’s campaign promises between 2,500 and 3,000 would be hired by 2019.
He said that a plan to create new neighborhood policing would be rolled out in stages as of January 2018, beginning with urban areas “that we think have serious problems.”
The Interior Minister said that roughly a third of people currently on radicalization watch lists have mental health problems, adding that he wanted to see collaboration between police and psychiatrists.
Regarding French citizens who have traveled to the Middle East to join the Islamic State group as fighters and have since come back, Collomb said that the problem was not insurmountable. “It’s not a large number of individuals,” he said, citing 217 adults and 54 minors who have returned to France from Iraq and Syria.
18,000 people living in France are currently flagged by French security services as being at risk of radicalization, including 12,000 who are under active surveillance. “That means that the network is vast,” Colomb said.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)