State of emergency to be extended until July 15 in France

State of emergency to be extended until July 15 in France

PARIS - The Associated Press
State of emergency to be extended until July 15 in France

French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve (C), French Justice Minister Jean-Jacques Urvoas (L) and French Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux (R) hold a press conference to announce that the state of emergency will be extended until July 2017 following a cabinet meeting at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris on December 10, 2016. / AFP PHOTO

French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve says 17 attacks have been thwarted in the country so far this year and he is asking Parliament to extend the state of emergency until July 15.

Speaking after an extraordinary cabinet meeting, Cazeneuve said on Dec. 10 that Parliament will vote on the bill next week.

He said the extension for seven more months is "absolutely necessary" to ensure the highest possible level of protection in the country in the context of next spring’s presidential and general elections.

Cazeneuve said the electoral period with multiple political meetings and gatherings may increase the risk of attacks by "those who want to strike our democratic values and republican principles at the heart.”

The newly appointed prime minister said the "terrorist threat" remains "at a particularly high level" in France and neighboring European countries. The threat - he described as an "imminent peril" - is still closely linked to the actions of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group, he said.

Cazeneuve said the state of emergency has "fully proven its effectiveness" with 4,194 house searches leading to 517 suspects arrested, 434 kept in custody and almost 600 firearms seized, including 77 "weapons of war," over the last year in France. Among those arrested 420 had links with "terrorist networks," he added.

He said some 700 French citizens or foreigners who used to live in France are now in Iraq and Syria, that 222 have already died there and that more than 2,000 are involved in jihadi networks, including those returning from that region, those hoping to go and those still "in transit”.

Next week’s vote in Parliament will be the fifth extension since a state of emergency was declared in France the day after the Paris attacks that left 130 dead on Nov. 13, 2015. The attacks have been claimed by the ISIL.