French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin has called on regional prefects to increase security at local churches over fears of possible terrorist activity during the Christmas holiday season.
Interior Minister Darmanin ordered the prefects on Wednesday to strengthen the security at churches during the Christmas holidays due to possible terrorist threats as well as increase security around shops that may face potential robbery risks.
According to the note that was passed on to the prefects, who act as representatives of the French state in regions to local governments and coordinate police and gendarmerie forces, Darmanin stated that he wanted to make police a “deterrent and visible” and said that armed forces soldiers under Operation Sentinel could be deployed if needed, BFMTV reports.
The increase in security comes just weeks after two men in the Paris region of Ile-de-France were arrested by the General Directorate of Internal Security (DGSI), France’s domestic intelligence unit, for allegedly plotting to carry out a terrorist attack during the Christmas period.
The two men, both aged 23, had apparently plotted to carry out knife attacks and had discussed several targets including shopping areas, universities, and crowded streets. Islamic State terrorist literature and propaganda were also found in their homes following police searches.
WATCH: Aftermath of Shootout with Police Shows Strasbourg Attacker Slumped in Doorway https://t.co/UjwMcWAZDi
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Some areas, such as the Christmas market in the city of Nice, have already increased security due to terrorism fears.
In 2018, the Strasbourg Christmas market was targeted by radical Islamic terrorist Cherif Chekatt who shot and stabbed bystanders, killing three and injuring another 13 before police were able to fatally shoot him.
The terrorist attack was later claimed by the Islamic State through their news agency Amaq, which stated that Chekatt “carried out this operation in response to the call to target the citizens [of the countries] of the international coalition” who were fighting the terrorist group in Syria and Iraq at the time.
Two years prior, Tunisian asylum seeker Anis Amri targetted another Christmas market in Berlin, running down bystanders in a truck he had stolen after stabbing to death the driver, killing another 12 and injuring dozens of others.