By Andria Kades
Around 120 army officers from the National Guard will be posted to the police force after training by the anti terrorism unit it emerged on Thursday.
Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou, commenting on reports that army officers were to join police ranks, said measures improving security, approved by Cabinet “could not be discussed in public” for obvious reasons.
“It was deemed necessary to implement a Cabinet decision that outlines when a need arises as part of the measures taken (against terrorism) to have the National Guard contribute, then the National Guard will contribute,” he said.
He did not specify when it would be implemented nor if it would be 120 army officers, however, the Cyprus Mail has learned the figure is not far off the mark and the training is set to begin imminently, within the next few days.
The officers will be deployed across airports and ports as well as at other locations that are not being revealed for security reasons.
According to reports, they will have the same authorities police have with the power to search and arrest members of the public.
The ministry of defence reiterated Nicolaou’s comments saying the practice of having army officers join police ranks is carried out by other European member states.
“Of course no one wants to cause problems to others but looking at the situation unfolding before us in our area and across the whole of Europe I think this was the least we could do,” Nicolaou said.
“All European Union member states are taking measures therefore we too ought to take measures.” He added this is part of a greater move to protect Cyprus against a threat of terrorism in light of the recent Paris attacks and not a decision taken due to a specific threat authorities may have received.
The decision was also made to compensate for a police force that cannot cope with all the new demands as it cannot hire any more staff.
Commenting on negative reactions that were met with the news – even from within the House defence committee – Nicolaou said: “I think we all understand the need that exists here and we need to demonstrate caution and responsibility.
“All European Union countries have assistance from their army in their security forces so why should it be particularly strange for us and create such a huge debate?”