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6 Mar, 2024 12:34

France names main threat to Olympics

There is a risk of terrorist attacks by Al-Qaeda and Islamic State or sympathizers, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin has warned
France names main threat to Olympics

France fears that the upcoming Summer Olympic Games, set to take place July 26 to August 11 in Paris, may become the target of Islamist terrorist attacks. Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin issued the warning while addressing lawmakers at an Olympics security hearing in the French Senate on Tuesday.

Darmanin said the French intelligence services have not identified any specific plots targeting the Olympics so far, but noted that intelligence is rarely an “exact science” and there are many potential threats, including from Islamic extremist organizations, environmental activists, and ultra-right groups.

“Those are not empty words: [the Olympics] is, for the Interior Ministry, the biggest logistical and security challenge we’ve ever had to organize,” he stated. “Al-Qaeda and Islamic State [IS, formerly ISIS] intend to [carry out attacks] but do not have the means at this stage.”

The official also noted that there is an “endogenous” threat posed by individuals linked to foreign terrorist organizations who are already present in the country, and who can conduct attacks on orders from these groups.

According to Darmanin, the authorities are currently conducting security checks of about 1 million people set to take part in or have access to the Olympics in order to ensure security. Around 89,000 checks have already been carried out, with 280 people banned due to their police records or other security issues.

Also, the number of spectators at the opening ceremony in Paris on July 26 will be cut by half, Darmanin announced, to around 300,000 people.

France faced a wave of deadly attacks linked to Islamic State in 2015-16, including the attack at the Bataclan concert hall. More recently, the country, where approximately 10% of the population is Muslim, has also seen a wave of anti-Semitic incidents by Islamist sympathizers amid the escalation of hostilities between Israel and Hamas.

In the most recent attack in early December of last year, a French national who had pledged allegiance to Islamic State in a video recorded beforehand stabbed three people in Paris. The attack occurred on the Quai de Grenelle – a spot also included in the plans for the opening ceremony of the Olympics.