France PM says terror threat remains ‘particularly high’

Five arrested over desecration of 250 tombs in a Jewish cemetery near Strasbourg

A French gendarme investigates desecrated tombstones at the Sarre-Union Jewish cemetery near Strasbourg in eastern France. Five adolescents were arrested over the incident but a prosecutor said one of the youths denied anti-Semitism was a factor. Photograph: Vincent Kessler/Reuters.

A French gendarme investigates desecrated tombstones at the Sarre-Union Jewish cemetery near Strasbourg in eastern France. Five adolescents were arrested over the incident but a prosecutor said one of the youths denied anti-Semitism was a factor. Photograph: Vincent Kessler/Reuters.

 

French prime minister Manuel Valls has said the threat of militant attacks in the country remains “particularly high” and that exceptional security measures would stay in place for as long as needed after attacks in Copenhagen.

France has deployed some 10,000 military personnel to protect public sites and announced thousands of new hires in intelligence after 17 people were killed in a series of attacks by Islamist gunmen in January.

Mr Valls on Monday said that two attacks at the weekend in Copenhagen, which targeted a synagogue and a free-speech event involving an artist who had caricatured Muhammad, underscored the need for prolonged action against what he called “Islamo-fascism”.

“We will prolong these measures as long as necessary, as long as the threat remains so high,” Mr Valls told RTL radio, describing a security plan involving deployment of troops and police in public places and near sensitive sites.

Separately, a French prosecutor said five adolescents were arrested in conjunction with the desecration of 250 tombs in a Jewish cemetery near the northeastern city of Strasbourg on Thursday. An inquiry was opened on Sunday.

Prosecutor Philippe Vannier said the reasons for the crime were unknown, but that one of the youths denied anti-Semitism, saying they only realised they were Jewish tombs while vandalising them.

“They considered the cemetery totally abandoned,” Mr Vannier told a press conference, adding that the vandalism involved pushing over steles and pillars and opening family vaults.

Mr Valls called upon French Jews to remain in France and promised the “strongest possible” legal response after Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu called anew upon European Jews to emigrate to Israel after the Copenhagen attacks.

“My message to French Jews is as follows: France is as hurt as you are and France does not want you to leave,” he said.

Danish police today said that two men suspected of helping the 22-year-old gunman responsible for killing a documentary filmmaker and a guard in Copenhagen have been arrested.

The two men, who were not identified, were detained Sunday in raids in Norrebro, the neighborhood where the gunman was killed by officers as he opened fire, the police said.

The Danish news media reported that the two men were being held on suspicion of assisting the gunman by giving him shelter and getting rid of a weapon.

Reuters