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Foreign Legion patrols Paris

Soldiers from France's famed Foreign Legion are patrolling underground and suburban train stations in Paris as part of the security alert revived after last month's terrorist bomb at Port Royale station. It is the first time that the legionnaires, who began their duties this week, have taken up duties in the French capital.

According to the defence ministry, there is no particular significance to read into their arrival in Paris. It is part of the regular rotation of units serving the capital in the anti-terrorist alert coded "Vigipirate".

Ministry sources said, however, that there were insufficient regular troops stationed in the Paris region to provide the cover required under Vigipirate, and other regions had been asked to help. A total of 750 troops are currently engaged in patrolling the capital, 300 of them from the Foreign Legion.

The legionnaires are paired with gendarmes or riot police (CRS) to patrol sensitive areas like stations, airports and such landmarks as the Eiffel Tower. They do not have the right to arrest or search people.

The Foreign Legion, which was founded in 1831 to engage exclusively in foreign operations, is based in Provence and numbers 8,500 men. Anyone can join, and may conceal his identity to do so, but must sign up for a minimum of five years.