ISIS militants are gearing up for a series of bomb attacks on large crowds in France, host to next month’s Euro 2016 soccer championships, its spy chief has said. In a new form of attacks, ISIS will be targeting large crowds through placing explosive devices in places where people shall gather in groups and redoing the very same action to achieve the maximum level of panic, according to rare remarks by Patrick Calvar, the head of France’s DGSI internal intelligence agency, to the parliament’s defence committee.
“Clearly, France is the most threatened and we know that Daesh (ISIS) is planning new attacks,” Calvar told the committee on May 10, according to a transcript of his testimony released to the media on Thursday. The latter added that the militant group had the numbers to launch the new attacks, including some 645 French citizens or residents currently in Syria or Iraq, of which 400 were fighters. A further 201 were either in transit to or from the region, he said.
The comments came six months after militants killed 130 people in coordinated assaults on cafes, bars, a football stadium and a music hall across Paris..
About 2.5 million spectators are expected for 51 soccer matches involving 24 teams in Euro 2016, which shall start on the 10th of June and run for a month at 10 stadiums across France. Moreover, there will be “fan zones” for crowds watching games on big screens in major cities.
France’s police force is stretched after two militant attacks last year and regular street protests; still, the government says all measures are in place to ensure it runs smoothly.
“We will not drop our guard,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls told RTL radio on Thursday when asked about Calvar’s comments.
Last week, a match was abandoned along with 75,000 seats being evacuated because of a fake bomb that was left behind after a training exercise at Manchester United’s stadium in Britain, highlighting the challenges facing security forces.
Referring to the Arabic acronym for ISIS, Calvar said Daesh was still using the same migrant routes through the Balkans to get its fighters into Europe, but, with the group under pressure from U.S.-led air strikes in Syria it would want to hit back in Europe to show its supporters that it was still strong.
“It’s in a position where it would try to hit as quickly as possible and as hard as possible,” Calvar said.” It is facing military difficulties on the ground and so will want to divert attention and avenge coalition air strikes,” he said.