France is to deploy soldiers and paramilitary police to defend Catholic churches following reports of a terrorist cell preparing an ISIS-style attack on congregations.
Although already thinly spread and struggling with fatigue, the French deployment of 10,000 soldiers and many thousands more police officers will now be expanded to Christian sites, reports theLocal.fr.
The impetus for the change of policy has come just days after French police arrested would-be Jihadist murderer Sid Ahmed Ghlam. Ghlam, a 24-year-old Moroccan student studying in Paris, murdered a fitness instructor in a botched attempt to hijack her car for a terror attack, and then accidentally shot himself in the leg.
Calling an ambulance for aid, police found Ghlam’s cover story questionable and followed the trail of his blood back to his car, which contained fake police uniforms, body armour, and a number of firearms including AK-47 assault rifles. Searching his student flat, they discovered plans for a gang of Islamists to open fire on Church services in Paris. One of his accomplices, a 25-year-old woman, has been arrested so far.
The enormous scale of the French security operation to protect sensitive sites from terror attack, which kicked off after the deadly Charlie Hebdo and Kosher deli murders in January has stretched French policing to the limit. It has been reported this month that absences from work due to illness by police officers are rapidly increasing, due in part to fatigue, and in part to low morale.
Officers speaking off the record have said the force deployed in France is now at a point where their ability to react to actual terror attacks, should they occur, has been diminished because of fatigue.