France’s parliament has extended a national state of emergency that has been in place since the Paris terrorist attacks in November to cover the Uefa Euro 2016 national football team tournament and Tour de France cycling event, both of which are due to take place this summer.
The measure, which was passed last week by the French upper house Senate, was approved today (Thursday) by the lower house National Assembly by 46 votes to 20.
According to French news agency AFP, the state of emergency will enable police to place under house arrest people whose behaviour is considered a threat to security or public order. However, the latest extension will remove the right for police to raid homes without a court order.
Since being declared on an initial two-month basis after November’s attacks, the state of emergency has led to over 3,500 searches, with 56 suspects taken into custardy and 69 people placed under house arrest. In February, it was extended for a further three months until May 26.
Euro 2016 will take place in various locations across France from June 10 to July 10, with two millions fans expected to visit the country during the tournament. This year’s Tour de France will run from July 2-24.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls (pictured) has so far refused to cancel sporting events in the country despite the threat of terrorism. He told French radio station RTL: “Giving up on sporting events and cultural events is precisely to give in to the terrorist threat. We will not drop our guard.”
Speaking after today's vote, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve added: “The terrorist threat remains at a high level and France, like the EU, is a target.”
The move comes after a warning from Patrick Calvar, the head of France's DGSI internal intelligence agency, that Islamic State Militants are planning a campaign of major bomb attacks on large crowds in France.
Speaking to the French parliament’s defence committee last week, Calvar said terrorists are planning “a new form of attack…characterised by placing explosive devices in places where there are large crowds and repeating this type of action to create a climate of maximum panic”. This could place both Euro 2016 and the Tour de France under threat.
The Reuters news agency reported that Calvar added that the militant group has almost 650 French citizens or residents currently in Syria or Iraq, of which 400 are fighters, while over 200 are either in transit to or from the region.
“Clearly, France is the most threatened and we know that Daesh (Islamic State) is planning new attacks,” Calvar told the French parliament’s defence committee on May 10, according to a transcript of his testimony released to the media today.