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France to Deploy Security Force of 90,000 to Police Euro 2016

FILE - A French policeman patrols on a horse during a mock chemical attack drill at the Pierre Mauroy stadium in Villeneuve d'Ascq, France, April 21, 2016, in preparation of security measures for the 2016 European soccer championship.

More than 90,000 police, soldiers and private security agents will be deployed across France to ensure safety for the Euro 2016 soccer tournament, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said on Wednesday.

The month-long tournament opens across France on June 10 with a state of emergency still in force after Islamist attacks last November that killed 130 people in Paris at several sites across the capital, including the Stade de France stadium.

About 2.5 million spectators are expected for 51 soccer matches involving 24 teams in games played at 10 stadiums across France. There will also be "fan zones" for crowds watching games on giant TV screens in major cities.

"Such a unique event in exceptional circumstances requires extra security measures," Cazeneuve told reporters.

Citing potential "terrorist" attacks and acts of hooliganism as the main threats, he said some 77,000 police, gendarmes and riot control officers would be deployed alongside 13,000 private security agents and 1,000 volunteers.

A portion of the 10,000 soldiers already stationed across cities as part of anti-terrorism measures, will also be handed more responsibility to protect sites during Euro 2016, he said.

The tournament also comes at a time of mass protest ahead of next year's presidential elections - with wave after wave of violence-marred demonstrations against a labor reform law adding further challenges for a stretched police force.

The government and organizers came under fire this week after security failures were exposed at the French soccer cup final on May 21.

Saturday's match between arch-rivals Paris St Germain and Olympique Marseille at the Stade de France had been deemed a high risk event and a first test for organizers of security measures required for the Euros.

Fans threw firecrackers and flares inside and outside the stadium and banned objects were brought into the grounds despite close searching, security officials said. There was also serious overcrowding."

"After several meetings... I told everybody of their obligations and it was decided to adapt the measures immediately," Cazeneuve said.

He said problems over guaranteeing the flow of supporters at entry points to the stadiums, carrying out security checks by private security firms and ensuring that end-of-match exit points for fans were safe would be resolved.
Security experts and police officials have said the fan zones, where some 8 million people are expected over the period, will be the biggest challenge.

"I hear critics saying these fan zones should have been abandoned, but then how would we ensure security for supporters in public spaces spread out everywhere?

"These fan zones will be maintained with an adapted and stringent security protocol," he said.