Catch the bombers, Chirac demands

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The Independent Online


President Jacques Chirac yesterday took heads of France's police, security and judicial services to task for failures of liaison during the investigation into recent bomb attacks in Paris and Lyons.

Presiding over an emergency meeting of the anti-terrorism committee, hitherto chaired by the Interior Minister or the Prime Minister, Mr Chirac said that the co-ordination between the different branches dealing with the terrorist attacks needed to be strengthened, and the lack of it had created confusion.

He appeared to be addressing criticism, which has gathered pace in the French media in the past three weeks, that lawyers, police and intelligence services are beset by inter-branch rivalry and all working at cross purposes. A former head of the French anti-terrorist squad, Alain Marsaud, used a recent newspaper article to call for the formation of a much smaller, tighter-knit team to handle all anti-terrorist operations.

Yesterday's meeting was held three days after a car bomb attack on a Jewish school near Lyons in which 14 people, including three children, were hurt. The attack was the sixth in as many weeks, and prompted the Prime Minister, Alain Juppe, to revive the national security plan, Vigipirate, first invoked in 1991 during the Gulf war.

The plan brings troops on to the streets of major cities to help with patrols and reinforces security at borders, airports and railway stations. Special security measures have been introduced around schools.

Late on Saturday, the French authorities released details of a man they want to question in connection with the spate of bomb attacks in Paris and Lyons. They say the man, a 24- year-old Algerian called Khaled Kelkal, left his fingerprints on the bomb which failed to explode on the high- speed train line near Lyons on 26 August.