With the country still nervous in the wake of November’s terrorist attacks in Paris, French churches are ramping up Christmas security to stop symbolic attacks by jihadi terrorists.
The French Minister of the Interior, Bernard Cazeneuve, issued a three-page note warning police chiefs that not only could terrorists stage attacks on French churches over the Christmas season, but that conducting the raids during masses would have “huge symbolic value”.
Mr Cazeneuve’s policy memo called for police patrols to be stepped up throughout the Christmas period, reports The Local. In addition he advised that police forces liaise with the relevant church authorities to tell them to look out for unusual behaviour or suspicious situations like the presence of unknown cars being left near churches.
The minister’s suggestions even go so far as to advise that French churches follow the example of department stores and museums by requiring their congregations to open coats and jackets before they enter for services, especially midnight masses on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day events, and to limit the number of entrances.
It has been estimated that Paris alone will see over 500 such services, although some predict the ongoing state of emergency after the November attacks, and the government’s fears around French churches, will see attendance levels hit badly this Christmas.
According to terrorism expert François Bernard Huyge the moves are “obviously mainly to reassure people,” however he also concedes that the government has no choice but to strengthen security as “if something happened they would heavily criticised.”
Mr. Cazeneuve pointed out that French authorities had already foiled a terrorist’s attempts to attack a Parisian church earlier in the year. On that occasion, as Breitbart London reported, the plot to attack church services with machine guns while wearing fake police uniforms was uncovered after the main suspect accidentally shot himself in the leg.
After the foiled April assault, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said:
“Protection of religious sites will be guaranteed. Christians and Catholics in France were targeted. They must be able to go to mass in perfect peace.”