Authorities are planning unprecedented security measures for next month’s European football championships in France amid fears of an Islamist terror attack.
Police have been placed on the highest state of alert for five group-stage matches, two of which involve England and one involving Wales. The first, England vs Russia, takes place in Marseilles on 11 June and the second, England vs Wales, will be held in Lens five days later.
The other matches are Turkey vs Croatia, Germany vs Poland and Ukraine vs Poland.
France remains in a state of emergency six months after the terror attacks that killed 130 people in Paris, with Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve announcing this week that it will be extended to cover the tournament.
The Times reports that intelligence services believe Islamists will be tempted to attack to tournament, with English, Welsh and Russian supporters considered prime targets due to their nations’ intervention in Syria.
As many as 20,000 England supporters are expected to travel to France, each being screened, searched and surveyed upon entry to the country and when arriving at stadiums and fan zones.
However, police are not only concerned about terrorism but also potential violent clashes between fans, especially as tensions rise over the ongoing migrant crisis.
Matches between countries such as Germany and Poland, or Austria and Hungary, could take on a political element as leaders continue to argue over migrant quotas and how to deal with the ongoing influx.
Islamist terror attacks still have the potential to cause most disruption, though. Police fear jihadists may attack railway stations and restaurants rather than matches themselves, with the biggest fear being a “lone wolf” gunman.
Laurent Nunez, police chief for the Marseilles region, said: “We know that the risk is multiple and diffuse. It is not only the fanzones and the stadiums that we will be watching, but also all the other places where fans can congregate.”
Breitbart London reported yesterday that France has arrested 101 people “directly linked to terrorism” since January this year.
“We are doing everything to protect the French people, but the threat is still very high,” Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said.