France rolls out mobile security forces for schools ‘experiencing difficulties’ with Islamic extremism after more than 130 received terror threats amid soaring tensions over national ban on religious clothing in classrooms


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France is setting up a mobile security force for schools ‘experiencing difficulties’ with extremism, aimed at reassuring teachers after more than 130 institutions received terror threats amid rising tensions over a nationwide ban on wearing religious clothing in the classroom.

Education Minister Nicole Belloubet promised to ‘guarantee… triple security’ with new ‘physical, digital and legal’ measures amid outcry over pupils in dozens of schools receiving ‘serious threats’ containing ‘justification of and incitement to terrorism’ via online portals.

She wrote on X, formerly Twitter, on Friday: ‘A mobile school security force will be set up. It can be deployed throughout the territory, in less than 48 hours, in the event of an acute crisis around an establishment, to strengthen local resources.’

Ms Belloubet said that she would bring together officials to ‘deploy and complete this firm response in the service of a better protected school’, assuring ‘our intransigence is total in the face of all those who want to attack our school’ [sic].

In recent weeks, France has been rocked by a slew of terror threats in high schools across the country, with the headteacher of a Paris school forced to resign following death threats for requesting a pupil remove her Islamic head-covering in line with France’s secular law.

The resignation, in turn, sparked indignation in France, where concerns for educators’ safety have grown since the murders of two teachers in attacks linked to Islamic extremism.

A French gendarme secures the back-to-school day at the Georges Sand high school in Domont, Val d’Oise, on November 2, 2020
A police car during a gathering organised by French socialist party, in front of the Ravel highschool in Paris, on March 29, following the resignation of the headmaster
French soldiers patrol near the Eiffel Tower as part of the national security plan ‘Vigipirate’, in Paris, France, 25 March 2024
France’s Minister for Education and Youth Nicole Belloubet speaks during a session of questions to the government at The National Assembly in Paris on March 26, 2024

Fears of violent retaliation over the bans come as the Jean-Perrin Lycée in Rezé, near Nantes, was evacuated Thursday after students received videos showing beheadings, directed to an online portal for pupils, parents and staff.

This followed similar ‘serious threats’ containing ‘justification of and incitement to terrorism’ sent out to 30 schools around Paris last week.

READ MORE: Parisian headteacher is forced to quit fearing for his life due to death threats after insisting a teenage girl remove her Islamic head-covering in line with French law 

Tensions have risen and police have been ordered to patrol the Maurice-Ravel Lycée in eastern Paris in light of the controversial resignation of the head of the Maurice Ravel Lycée, who received death threats after asking a teenage pupil to remove her Islamic headcovering in line with French law.

In late February, the teacher asked three female pupils at the Maurice Ravel Lycée to remove their headscarves, a request two complied with while one refused, prompting an altercation. 

A 26-year-old man has since been arrested in connection to the death threats.

Several arrests have been made in connection to online threats, including a 17-year-old and a 21-year-old man. 

France, which introduced its ban on religious clothing in schools in a bid to preserve secular tradition two decades ago, has vowed to fight back, prime minister Gabriel Attal vowing to bring a complaint against the student and two others at the Maurice-Ravel Lycée for slander and false accusations.

Ms Belloubet has also promised to ensure new measures to guarantee the safety of educators across the country.

‘Teachers are not alone and we are all forming a shield around them, around our schools,’ Ms Belloubet told reporters on Friday during a visit to a secondary school in Bordeaux. 

Education officials have reported more than 320 threats made across France since the middle of last week. 

Last week, a secondary school in the department of Seine-et-Marne to the east of the French capital received a message saying that explosives had been hidden throughout the establishment ‘in the name of Allah’, a police source said.

At least five other high schools in the department of Yvelines in the west of the Greater Paris region also received bomb threats last week.

‘The terrorist threat is real, it’s strong,’ French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal told reporters on Monday, adding that two plots by suspected Islamic extremists had already been thwarted this year.

Mr Attal said last week that the country was raising its security alert to the highest level after the Moscow concert hall attack.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the atrocity on March 22, which saw gunmen storm a public event and fire indiscriminately at civilians with automatic weapons, killing at least 143.

Up to 45,000 French police and gendarmes are now set to be deployed each day during the Olympics this summer, while 18,000 troops are also expected to be mobilised, according to government figures.

Another 18,000-22,000 private security guards will be on the ground for the Games, which run from July 26 to August 11.

The latest threats follow a flurry of false bomb alerts targeted schools, airport and tourist sites in autumn 2023.

In October, a radicalised Islamist stabbed a teacher to death in the northern town of Arras.

Dominique Bernard, 57, was murdered by 20-year-old Chechen refugee Mohamed Mogouchkov at Gambetta high school.

The father-of-three had tried to reason with Mogouchkov when he stormed into the school playground with two knives.

But Mogouchkov went on the rampage, killing Bernard and then severely wounding two other adult members of staff.

‘This school was struck by the barbarity of Islamist terrorism,’ French President Emmanuel Macron said after visiting the school.

‘The teacher who was killed had come forward to protect others and without doubt saved many lives.’

French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal (R) visits the Saint-Lazare railway station’s operating center of the Sentinelle security operation, in Paris on March 25, 2024
The head of Maurice Ravel Lycée, in the 20th district of Paris, received the threats on social media after an altercation in February

In December, a French court convicted six teenagers for their role in the 2020 beheading of Samuel Paty outside his secondary school near Paris, after they helped to identify him to a radicalised Islamist.

Paty, a 47-year-old history and geography teacher, was stabbed and beheaded in the Paris suburb of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine in October 2020, just 12 miles from Issou.

He had been tracked down by an Islamic extremist who saw his name online.

Paty had shown his class cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed from the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo during a discussion about free speech.

In 2015, gunmen stormed the Charlie Hebdo offices and opened fire on staff, murdering 12 and injuring 11 others in response to cartoons published ostensibly depicting the prophet.

In 2004, French authorities banned school children from wearing ‘signs or outfits by which students ostensibly show a religious affiliation’ such as headscarves, turbans or kippas on the basis of the country’s secular laws which are meant to guarantee neutrality in state institutions.

The government last year said it was also banning the abaya – a garment worn by Muslim women that covers the body from the neck to the feet – in schools.

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