Police officers in France.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
NANTES – More troops were deployed on Tuesday throughout France following a spate of attacks in the country over the past few days.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls said at the end of an emergency cabinet meeting on Tuesday that “the number of Vigipirate [the high alert anti-terrorist French security plan] patrols with soldiers will be increased by 200 to 300 more in the next few hours, from the present 780.”
France is on high alert for attacks on its soil after calls from Islamist insurgents to attack French citizens and interests in reprisal for the country’s military strikes on Islamist strongholds in the Middle East and Africa this year.
On Monday night, a bullet fired from an air gun crashed through a window of a Paris synagogue’s office. The David Ben Ichay Synagogue’s rabbi and his assistant were on site when the bullet was fired.
French police are searching for two suspects who were outside the synagogue about 10 minutes before the attack, the JSSNews website reported.
Surveillance cameras did not provide much information on the incident, according to the website, and it was unclear whether the shots originated from the street or a nearby building.
The Bureau for National Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, or BNVCA, condemned what it called the “anti-Semitic assault on a place of worship in Paris.”
The attacks “are rooted in a misguided Palestinianism and visceral anti-Zionism,” it said.
Also on Monday, a van drove into a crowded Christmas market in Nantes, wounding at least 10 people. Four were badly wounded and one died of his wounds. The driver stabbed himself after the crash, but survived his self-inflicted injuries.
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve called on people to keep calm and said the driver of the vehicle had made no religious or political claims and appeared to have acted alone, adding that he was likely suffering from a mental illness.
A local newspaper reported that the driver had shouted “Allahu akbar,” but witnesses said that this was not true.
The incident occurred a day after a man rammed his car into crowds in the eastern city of Dijon, shouting “Allahu akbar,” leaving 13 people wounded. Last Saturday, a man was shot after he stabbed and wounded three police officers in Joue-les-Tours in central France while also yelling “Allahu akbar.”
“We are all concerned about this series of tragedies,” Valls said. “Never before have we faced such a high danger of terrorism.”
On Monday, prosecutors said that the Dijon driver suffered from mental illness and had received psychiatric care more than 150 times in the past 13 years and had no ideological motive. They said they had not found any link between the events in Dijon and the Saturday attack in Joue-les-Tours, which is being investigated by counterterrorism authorities in Paris.
The attacker in Joue-les- Tours, a 20-year-old Burundi national and a convert to Islam, had written a will in which he asked God to “give him strength,” Paris prosecutor François Molins told a news conference, adding that the intelligence services had been closely watching his brother.
In a Friday YouTube video, Islamic State fighters, some of them who were wearing masks, called on Muslims to attack French interests.
“If you are not able to join us, beat them from where you are staying... Make France explode, explode their head with a stone, or with anything else if you can’t get a gun,” said one of the insurgents.
“Don’t let them lie in peace.
Take an example from your brother Muhammad Merah,” he said, referring to the French-Algerian Islamist who killed four Jews in Toulouse and three French soldiers in Montauban in 2012.JTA and Reuters contributed to this story.