France yesterady announced an unprecedented deployment of thousands of troops and police to bolster security at “sensitive” sites, including Jewish schools, the day after marches drew nearly 4 million people across the country to stand in unity and solidarity for the 17 people murdered in three days of terrorist violence in Paris.
“We have decided ... to mobilize 10,000 men to protect sensitive sites in the whole country from tomorrow [today] evening,” French Minister of Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian said after an emergency security meeting. “This is the first time that our troops have been mobilized to such an extent on our own soil.”
Ahead of the meeting, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said one of the attackers, Amedy Coulibaly, who gunned down a policewoman and four Jewish shoppers at a kosher supermarket, likely received help from others.
“I don’t want to say more, but investigations are continuing into these attacks, this barbaric terrorist acts. We think there are in fact probably accomplices,” Valls told French radio. “The hunt will go on.”
The alert level in the shell-shocked country remained at its highest possible, as French Minister of the Interior Bernard Cazeneuve announced the deployment of nearly 5,000 police to guard Jewish schools and places of worship.
Cazeneuve said he was putting in place a “powerful and durable” system of protection for France’s Jewish community, the largest in Europe.
French President Francois Hollande has warned his grieving countrymen not to let down their guard and questions were mounting as to how the attackers slipped through the intelligence services’ net.
As well as Coulibaly, brothers Said, 34, and Cherif Kouachi, 32, who carried out the Charlie Hebdo murders, had a history of extremism and were known to French intelligence.
Valls has admitted there were “clear failings” after it emerged that the Kouachi brothers had been on a US terror watch list “for years.”
He told French radio he wanted to see an “improved” system of tapping phones which had to perform better.
Said was known to have traveled to Yemen in 2011, where he received weapons training from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, while Cherif was a known jihadist who was convicted in 2008 for involvement in a network sending fighters to Iraq.
Coulibaly was a repeat criminal offender who had been convicted for extremist Islamist activity.
All three were shot dead by security forces on Friday after a three-day reign of terror that culminated in twin hostage dramas.
Investigators have been trying to hunt down Coulibaly’s partner, 26-year-old Hayat Boumeddiene, but a security source in Turkey said she arrived there on Jan. 2, before the attacks, and has probably traveled on to Syria.
Coulibaly’s mother and sisters condemned his actions, saying: “We hope there will not be any confusion between these odious acts and the Muslim religion.”
Ankara yesterday confirmed that Boumeddiene traveled through Turkey on her way to Syria.
“She entered Turkey on Jan. 2 from Madrid. There are images of her at the airport,” Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu was quoted as saying by state-run news agency Anatolia.
Cavusoglu said the 26-year-old, who married gunman Coulibaly in an Islamic ceremony, stayed at a hotel in Kadikoy in Istanbul and was accompanied by another person.
She then crossed into Syria on Thursday, according to her telephone records, Cavusoglu said, without making clear if she traveled to Syria on her own.
The Turkish security source said she had not been arrested because of a lack of timely intelligence from France.
Cavusoglu’s comments confirm that Boumeddiene was already outside France when the killing spree began, contrary to earlier speculation that she had been involved in the Paris killings in which 17 people died.
Boumeddiene is suspected of having had a role in her partner attacks which culminated in a bloody hostage-taking in a kosher supermarket on Friday after he had shot dead a policewoman close to a synagogue the day before.
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