22 Jan 2015

France beefs up security after attacks

8:26 am on 22 January 2015

France will recruit thousands of extra police, spies and investigators to boost national security and intelligence, Prime Minister Manuel Valls has announced.

Members of the French police special force GIPN carry out searches in northern France.

Members of the French police special force GIPN carry out searches in northern France. Photo: AFP

Warning the threat remained high after the most deadly Islamist attack on French soil, Mr Valls said the state would hire 2,680 in the police, justice, intelligence and defence sectors by 2018 for anti-jihadi work, surveillance and security.

Several thousand planned job cuts in the army are to be cancelled and dozens of extra Muslim chaplains deployed to work with potential militants in France's overcrowded jails.

"The fight against terrorism, jihadism and radical Islam will be a long haul," Mr Valls told a news conference after the measures were agreed by President Francois Hollande's cabinet.

"The first requirement is that we further reinforce the human and material assets of our intelligence services," said Mr Valls, who after the January 7 to 9 attacks conceded there could have been "shortfalls" in monitoring and justice arrangements.

Manuel Valls

Manuel Valls Photo: AFP

France has been struggling to monitor an estimated 1,200 radical Islamists and some 200 people who have returned from fighting with militant groups in Syria and Iraq.

Mr Valls said a possible penalty would be debated under which offenders would be stripped of certain civic rights such as voting, holding office or working for the state.

Despite commitments worth a total US$492 million in extra spending, Mr Valls said France would respect public finance commitments made to its European Union partners.

Mr Hollande said in a separate statement he would maintain 7,500 military jobs due to be cut in the defense sector. Total armed forces personnel in France was 278,000 at the end of 2013.

Suspected accomplicies investigated

The three gunmen who attacked satirical journal Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket were killed by security forces.

Somali Islamist militant group al Shabaab praised al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula over the attack, describing them in a statement as "the pioneers of external operations that target the heart of the Crusader enemies".

Four men aged 22 to 28 were placed under formal investigation over the killing of a police officer and of four hostages at the Jewish store near Paris, a prosecutor said.

The men are suspected of having bought weapons including knives and tear gas found among the possessions of the gunman who attacked the kosher store.

The investigation is also looking into the possibility some accomplices had fled France.

- Reuters

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs