France frets over internal threat two years after Paris attacks

PARIS – Two years after militants killed 130 people in co-ordinated attacks across Paris, French officials say there remains an unprecedented level of “internal” threat from both within and outside the country.

With Islamic State losing ground in Iraq and Syria, hundreds of French citizens — and in some cases their children — have started to return to France, leaving the government in a quandary over how to deal with them.

For the first time as president, Emmanuel Macron will pay tribute on Monday to the victims of the mass shootings and suicide bombing that took place across Paris and in the city’s northern suburb of Saint-Denis on November 13, 2015.

The attacks, the deadliest on French soil since World War II, prompted the country to strike back, joining international military operations targeting IS and other Islamist militant groups in Iraq, Syria, Libya and elsewhere.

There has also been the passage of more stringent French legislation, with the most recent law, effective this month, giving police extended powers to search properties, conduct electronic eavesdropping and shut mosques or other locations suspected of preaching hatred.

Conservative politicians say the regulations don’t go far enough, while human rights groups express alarm, saying security forces are being given too much freedom to curtail rights.

Mr Macron — often parodied for his ‘on the one hand, on the other hand’ policy pronouncements — has emphasised the need to balance security and liberty.

While he has ended the state of emergency brought in after the attacks, heavily armed soldiers still patrol the streets of Paris daily, and barely a week goes by without a police operation to round up suspects.

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