Blog

Louvre and Versailles Emptied as France Raises Guard After Stabbing

[ad_1]

Thousands of troops were being deployed to guard sensitive locations across France, and the Louvre Museum and the Palace of Versailles were evacuated in separate security alerts, as the country remained on edge on Saturday after the killing of a schoolteacher in a stabbing attack that the authorities described as an act of Islamist terrorism.

France has been under its highest terrorist threat level since Friday, when the teacher, Dominique Bernard, was killed at a school in Arras, in northern France. A suspect was quickly arrested at the scene: Officials said he was a former student of Mr. Bernard’s, and had already been under surveillance as a potential Islamist extremist.

On Saturday morning, the Louvre, the world’s most visited art museum, ushered visitors out and closed its doors in response to “a written message that there was a risk,” said Coralie James, a spokeswoman for the museum. “In the current national context,” she added, the museum had decided to shut for the day, “while we carry out the necessary checks.”

And on the outskirts of Paris, another treasure of French heritage, the Palace of Versailles — built for King Louis XIV — was also evacuated, the police said on Saturday afternoon. In a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter, they said a suspicious package had been found.

Earlier in the day, the authorities announced the mobilization of troops dedicated to responding to a potential terrorist attack. Sebastien Lecornu, France’s defense minister, wrote on X that up to 7,000 soldiers were being deployed to strengthen security at sensitive sites, at the request of President Emmanuel Macron.

France endured large-scale Islamist terrorist attacks in 2015 and 2016, with smaller but still deadly shootings and stabbings in the years since.

Although attacks on schools are rare, they touch a particular nerve in a country where many regard the free public education system as both an emblem and a bulwark of the nation’s identity as a secular republic.

The attack on Friday stirred painful memories of the killing of Samuel Paty, a history teacher who was beheaded by an Islamist extremist in October 2020, after showing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in class to illustrate free speech.

The suspect in Mr. Bernard’s stabbing was identified by officials as Mohammed M., a Russian immigrant born in 2003. In addition to killing Mr. Bernard, who taught French literature, the attacker injured a physical education teacher and two other school employees.

Gérald Darmanin, the interior minister, said in an interview on Friday on TF1 television that intelligence services had recently been tipped off that Mohammed M. had been in touch with other radicalized people, including his brother.

Raising the threat level in the country was precautionary, Mr. Darmanin said, and the authorities had not detected any specific threats. But, he added, there was “probably” a link between the attack and the current conflict between Israel and Hamas — part of an “extremely negative atmosphere,” he said. He did not provide any details on that link.

This past week, the authorities banned all pro-Palestinian demonstrations and used tear gas and water cannons to disperse a protest in support of Palestinian people in Paris. France is home to Europe’s biggest Jewish population and one of its largest Muslim populations, and in the past, flare-ups in the Middle East have reverberated across the country.



[ad_2]

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button