France was placed on the highest possible level of security alert on Friday 13 October after a fatal school stabbing. The aftermath of this incident resulted in a teacher’s death and two other people wounded by a former student with a record of Islamic radicalisation in a knife attack at a school in the northeastern town of Arras.
Amid additional concerns over the Israel-Hamas war, the government has raised the threat alert level and mobilised 7,000 troops to increase security across the country.
The UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) warns travellers that the threat level is described as “maximum vigilance and protection in the event of an imminent threat of a terrorist act or in the immediate aftermath of an attack”. It advises people to “stay alert and follow the advice of local authorities” when visiting France.
The country has been placed on a high-security alert, which necessitated the evacuation of two of its most renowned tourist attractions, i.e., the Louvre Museum and the Palace of Versailles. These sites, typically bustling with visitors, were evacuated due to security concerns.
The Louvre expects an average of 30,000 – 40,000 visitors daily, Alarm systems within the Louvre, including its underground shopping centre, were activated around midday, prompting the immediate evacuation of all visitors. The decision to evacuate and subsequently close the Louvre for the day was made in response to a received written warning of a potential risk to the museum and its visitors, as reported by the Agence France-Presse (AFP).
According to AFP, they received a written message warning that there was a “risk to the museum and its visitors”. They decided to evacuate the museum and close it for the day to carry out “essential checks”. It is a priority to ensure the safety and well-being of all museum visitors during these uncertain times.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said that 102 people have been arrested for antisemitic acts or inciting terrorism since the Israel-Hamas war began on Oct. 7 which led French authorities to reinforce security measures, especially around Jewish sites.
Darmanin also said there are currently 193 foreigners considered “dangerous” by French intelligence services who will be sent back to their countries of origin as part of security measures.
Education Minister Gabriel Attal said that 168 bomb threats in French schools have been reported since the beginning of September.“This is inadmissible and unacceptable,” he said.
In a message to teachers and other school workers posted on X, formerly Twitter, Macron said “We took action, we are taking action and we will continue to take action to ensure that school remains a sanctuary for our students and for all those who work there.”
“To blind hatred, we will always oppose the inextinguishable thirst for teaching. The thirst for knowledge. The thirst for living free,” he added.
Counterterrorism authorities are investigating Friday’s stabbing, and the suspected assailant and several others are in custody, prosecutors said. The suspect had been under recent surveillance by intelligence services for radicalization. Court documents viewed by The Associated Press show he is from the Ingushetia region in Russia’s Caucasus Mountains.
The prosecutor said the alleged assailant was a former student there and repeatedly shouted “Allahu akbar,” the Arabic phrase for “God is great,” during the attack. Prosecutors are considering charges of terrorism-related murder and attempted murder against the suspect.
Despite the increased level of alert, many visitors in France remain persistent. Spanish tourist Qing Qing Wang, told AFP, “I’m not changing the plan. We’re going on as we are. We spent three days at Disneyland with the kids and now we’re here,”
“Tomorrow we’ll be spending the day in this whole area too. At the moment, I can see that everyone is calm. I don’t see anyone who’s very worried.”
Others are changing their plans following the evacuation of the Louvre and Palace of Versailles.
“I don’t feel scared. I feel as if I will change my itinerary just a little,” Australian tourist Lee Carter told the French news agency on Sunday.
“I won’t go to the museums this trip. I’ll just walk around the streets and I’ll be mindful.”