PARIS (Reuters) - France will put more police and soldiers on the streets to deter would-be militant attackers from striking during Christmas and New Year festivities, Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux said on Wednesday.
The newly appointed minister was speaking after parliament voted overnight to extend a state of emergency imposed after Islamists killed 130 people in Paris in multiple attacks just over a year ago.
“The threat is serious,” said Le Roux, who has the power to deploy around 3,000 extra police and soldiers during the year-end holiday season, a peak time for party events and at airports and railway stations.
“I want tourists to come to the country in large numbers and I want our fellow citizens to be able to go out and have fun,” he told RTL radio.
More than 230 people have been killed in militant attacks in France over the past two years, including 86 during this year’s July 14 national holiday celebrations in the Riviera resort of Nice.
France remains on high alert for more, especially by followers of Islamic State, whose bases in Syria and Iraq are being bombed by French jets. The jihadist group has called on followers to carry out attacks on French soil.
Since last year’s Paris attacks up to 10,000 police and soldiers have at times been deployed to protect sensitive sites such as synagogues, airports and stations. The total has been pared back to around 7,000 since the end of the European soccer championship in July.
Beyond the human toll, tourist arrivals in France between July and September fell 10.6 percent from last year, and 18 percent in Paris. In November, the government announced spending of 15 million euros ($15.9 million) on cameras and other security measures in key tourist zones.
Le Roux, appointed last week when his predecessor Bernard Cazeneuve was made prime minister, said 16 potential attacks had been foiled this year thanks to extra search and arrest powers granted to police under emergency rule.
Lawmakers on Tuesday night extended that state of emergency to July 2017, covering campaigning and balloting in a two-round presidential election in which the runoff is scheduled for May.
($1 = 0.9413 euros)
Writing by Brian Love; additional reporting by Marine Pennetier, Dominique Vidalon and Sudip Kar-Gupta; editing by John Stonestreet