Bio-chemical attack fears rattle France

November 23, 2015 12:00 pm

 A
soldier patrols outside the Sacre Coeur basilica in Montmartre following
the Paris attacks in which 130 people were killed nine days ago.
Pictures / AP

Paris stepped up security at key water supply facilities amid warnings of bio-chemical attacks.
The
move was part of a raft of security measures imposed by and
Belgium in response to “imminent” fears of further terrorist strikes.
With
Belgium on its highest terror alert, Interior Minister Jan Jambon
ordered a search of every single address in Molenbeek, the Brussels
suburb dubbed a “terror den” over its links to several of the Paris
killers.
Some 85 of the 130 jihadists who have returned from Syria to Belgium live there.
With
Isis (Islamic State) promising fresh attacks on Paris following those
that killed 130 nine days ago – and issuing a video showing a fallen
Eiffel Tower and Air France plane – the capital tightened security in
water storage and supply sites amid reports of the theft of biohazard
suits at a Paris hospital.

Eau de Paris, the capital’s state-run water company, has
banned access to six sensitive sites to all but key personnel following
the Government’s decision to declare a state of emergency for three
months.
“Our eight security agents are the only ones to be
accredited by the Defence Ministry and are in permanent contact with the
terrorism cell of Paris police headquarters,” a spokesman told Le
Parisien.
The storage and treatment sites have protective fencing
and special sensors to detect intrusion. To limit the risk of
contamination, Eau de Paris has increased the amount of chlorine added
to water at five supply sites.
“The dose injected has been
raised,” said Celia Blauel, president of Eau de Paris. Chlorine is a key
indicator of any anomaly in the water. “When the chlorine level drops,
it means there is biological contamination,” she said.
It is
tested all along the supply chain, meaning that water authorities can
“cut off supply in a contaminated area if necessary without stopping the
entire system,” she said.
Eau de Paris produces a million cubic
metres of drinking water per day but the capital only consumes half of
that amount. “So we always have a day’s lag in terms of consumption,”
said Blauel, describing the system as “extremely safe”.
The
heightened security came amid reports that a dozen protective suits
against highly contaminative viruses are missing from Paris’ Necker
hospital.
Three times as many protective boots made of
polyethylene – resistant to chemical agents – have also vanished, along
with gloves and anti-bacterial masks.
The hospital said: “The
disappearance of this limited amount of equipment was noticed on
[Thursday] and a complaint has been filed.” Philippe Goujon, Mayor of
Paris’ 15th district, where Necker is located, said the theft was
“naturally worrying”.
It emerged last week that hospitals and
emergency services across France have been supplied with the most
powerful antidote to sarin and other nerve gas chemicals for the first
time.
Under a November 14 decree, the army’s medical service was ordered to distribute stocks of the drug atropine.
Prime
Minister Manuel Valls said that the country could rule nothing out when
it came to terrorists bent on mass murder, including “chemical and
biological weapons”.
Iraqi and American intelligence have warned
that Isis is aggressively pursuing development of chemical weapons,
setting up a branch dedicated to research and experiments with the help
of scientists from Iraq, Syria and elsewhere in the region.
French
intelligence agents are convinced that Isis is producing mustard gas,
after obtaining samples from in Syria. However, US intelligence
officials do not believe Isis has the capability to develop
sophisticated weapons such as nerve gas.
With Paris trying to
return to normal life but with all public gatherings banned until
November 30, terror fears spread to Brussels after the Government warned
of a “precise” and “imminent” threat of a Paris-style attack on the
Belgian capital.
Heavily-armed soldiers and police officers
patrolled streets across Brussels as the metro system was closed and
officials told people to avoid crowded areas such as shopping centres.
The
Belgian terror alert came as the massive manhunt continued for Salah
Abdeslam, the only known alleged Paris attacker to have escaped alive.
He
is known to have returned to Belgium after the attacks, possibly after
pulling out of a planned suicide bombing at the last minute.
French
authorities have said the attacks were planned in Brussels by
Abdelhamid Abaaoud, 28, who fought for Isis in Syria and was killed in
the siege of an apartment in the Paris suburb Saint-Denis last week. His
fingerprints were found on one of the Kalashnikovs used to gun down
people at bars and restaurants.
Salah Abdeslam is said by officials to have known Abaaoud in jail.
Fears
that Abdeslam, whose elder brother Brahim blew himself up at a cafe in
Paris, or his associates may still pose a security threat led Belgian
authorities to cancel a football match between Belgium and Spain.
The
Belgian authorities have charged three people with involvement in the
attacks, which Isis said it carried out. A Moroccan national was
reportedly charged with the murder of 130 people for his alleged part in
the planning. The suspect named A. Lazez is thought to have helped
Salah Abdeslam when he returned to Belgium.
Police are trying to
determine the meaning of an SMS message Lazez received on his phone
while in custody. It read “The Jew is not there”. Two others are being
held in Brussels. Mohamed Amri, 27, and Hamza Attou, 21, went to fetch
Abdeslam from Paris but deny any knowledge of his involvement in the
attacks.
Turkey detained Belgian citizen of Moroccan origin Ahmet Dahmani, 26, on suspicion of links to the Paris attacks.

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