France mobilises 7,000 troops for extra patrols after teacher slain

PARIS (Reuters) -French President Emmanuel Macron has ordered up to 7,000 soldiers to be mobilised for increased security patrols, his office said on Saturday, a day after a teacher was stabbed to death in an Islamist attack.

France was put on its highest security alert on Friday after a 20-year-old man fatally stabbed a teacher and gravely wounded two other people at a school in the city of Arras in northern France.

The Louvre museum in central Paris and the Palace of Versailles just outside the French capital were evacuated on Saturday after receiving bomb alerts, police said.

Macron’s office said the soldiers would be mobilised by Monday evening until further notice as part of an ongoing operation that regularly conducts patrols in major city centres and tourist sites.

The latest security alert comes as France hosts the Rugby World Cup and less than a year before Paris welcomes the Olympic Games, which include plans for an unprecedented opening ceremony outside a stadium and a parade down the river Seine.

Interior Ministry spokeswoman Camille Chaize said security measures were already at their highest level at the stadium used for the rugby matches but extra patrols would be added at fanzones nearby and in central Paris.

France has been targeted by a series of Islamist attacks over the years, the worst being a simultaneous assault by gunmen and suicide bombers on entertainment venues and cafes in Paris in November 2015.

The security situation is to be reviewed at a meeting on Saturday afternoon to decide whether additional measures are necessary, Chaize said.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on Friday the Arras attack bore a link to events in the Middle East, where Israel is conducting a military offensive to root out Hamas fighters after their deadly rampage into Israel last Saturday.

Police sought on Saturday to disperse a small pro-Palestinian protest in Paris. The government banned such protests this week over public order concerns.

(Reporting by Leigh Thomas; additional reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Giles Elgood and Mark Potter)