France plans to extend the state of emergency in place since November’s attacks on Paris by two months, to maintain security through the Euro 2016 football tournament, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on Wednesday.
The announcement came hours after police simulated an armed response to a militant attack and hostage-taking at a Paris railway station, and a day after a government pledge to ensure anti-terrorism units could get to any attack site within 20 minutes.
“The state of emergency cannot be permanent, but on the occasion of these big events … we have decided to prolong,” Valls said on France Info radio.
Euro 2016 starts June 10 and runs for a month at 10 stadiums around France. Some 2.5 million spectators are expected for 51 matches involving 24 teams. There will also be fan zones for crowds of TV viewers in major cities.
The current state of emergency giving extra powers to police and security forces runs until May 26. The proposed extension will have to be approved by parliament.
Police have had extra powers to search homes, hold suspects and put people under house arrest since the Nov. 13 attacks in which 130 people were killed. The initial move was popular in France, but human rights groups have expressed concern at two extensions that have taken place since.
In an update on Wednesday, the interior ministry said it had narrowed the focus of anti-terrorism raids, with more effective results in terms of finding weapons.
It said it had conducted only 122 raids since the last time the state of emergency was extended on Feb. 26, compared with 3,427 in the months that immediately followed the attacks.
In those more recent raids, some 155 weapons had been seized, on top of 588 in the earlier period. Of the total 743 weapons found, 75 were described as “war grade”.
The Stade de France national stadium north of the capital, which will host the opening match and the final, was the site of a suicide bombing on Nov. 13. Other shootings and suicide bombings took place near the centre of Paris at the Bataclan music venue and at cafes.
They were claimed by Islamic State, the ultra-hardline militant Islamist group that controls parts of Syria and Iraq.
Security arrangements already planned for Euro 2016 are stricter than usual. The average stadium security presence will be 900 strong, plus 200 volunteer ushers and 80 medics – about 30 percent more staffing than at normal matches of the kind.
CRS riot police and Gendarmerie divisions will also be deployed in the host towns.
A number of attack simulations have already taken place in connection with the event. Late on Tuesday night, the Gare Montparnasse, a railway station in south-central Paris, resounded to explosions and gunfire as special police forces in full battle dress carried out drills and simulations.