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By Brian Love
PARIS Dec 19 France's government sought on
Tuesday to reassure the public about safety during year-end
festivities after a suspected militant attack on a Christmas
market in Berlin, saying security forces were working round the
clock to prevent such violence.
French Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux met his German
counterpart in Berlin hours before a truck mowed into crowds at
a Christmas market there on Monday evening, killing 12 and
injuring dozens more in what police say was a suspected
terrorist attack. ]
The Berlin incident revived memories of the attack last July
14 in which a man drove a large truck into crowds of people
celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday in the French
Riviera city of Nice, killing 86.
Le Roux urged people to go out and party despite security
fears, saying everything was being done to ensure protection,
notably at hundreds of outdoor markets that draw millions of
people into the streets at Christmas.
"Police and intelligence are on the job 24 hours a day.
Protection is guaranteed. I want people to go out and enjoy
themselves," he told Europe 1 radio.
He headed to Strasbourg in northeastern France to one of
Europe's oldest Christmas markets, a sprawl of festive food,
gift stalls and lights that draws about two million people ahead
of Dec. 25, one of the main dates on the Christian calendar.
There are hundreds of similar markets across France, as in
other European countries such as neighbouring Germany.
"We're not going to give in to blackmail and terrorism,"
said Strasbourg Mayor Roland Ries. "That would be tantamount to
handing victory to them and their propaganda battle against the
Large barriers had been erected to prevent vehicles entering
the market zone in the ancient centre of Strasbourg, much of
which is surrounded by canals and bridges, with security checks
on people entering, Ries said.
More than 230 people have been killed in Islamist attacks
over the last two years in France, including 130 in Paris by
suicide bombers and gunmen in November 2015 - an assault for
which the Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility.
Deployments of soldiers and police to sensitive sites such
as airports and railways was boosted to 10,000 in the wake of
the 2015 attacks, but later pared back to 7,000. Le Roux said
the other 3,000 were on standby for year-end operations.
(Additional reporting by John Irish and Marine Pennetier)