FILE PHOTO: French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb speaks to the media outside the Saint-Charles train station after French soldiers shot and killed a man who stabbed two women to death at the main train station in Marseille, France, October 1, 2017. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier/File Photo
By Richard Lough
PARIS (Reuters) – France remains “in a state of war”, its interior minister said on Tuesday before lawmakers voted on an anti-terrorism bill that will increase police powers to search and restrict people’s movements but which rights groups say will hurt civil liberties.
Parliament’s lower house is expected to adopt the legislation which will boost the powers of security agencies at a time when the French authorities are struggling to deal with the threat posed by foreign jihadists and homegrown militants.
More than 240 people have been killed in France in attacks since early 2015 by assailants who pledged allegiance to or were inspired by Islamic State. In the latest attack on Sunday, a man cried Allahu Akbar — God is Greatest — before fatally stabbing two women outside the railway station in the city of Marseille.
“We are still in a state of war,” Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said in an interview on France Inter radio. “We have foiled numerous attacks since the start of the year that would have led to many deaths.”
Emergency powers in place since November 2015, when Islamist suicide bombers and gunmen carried out attacks in Paris and killed 130 people, have played a significant role in enabling intelligence agencies to disrupt plots, the government says.
The new legislation would see many of those emergency powers enshrined in law, with limited oversight from the judiciary.
The interior ministry, without approval from a judge, will be able to set up security zones when there is a threat, restricting the movement of people and vehicles in and out and with power to carry out searches inside the area.
It will have more power to shut down places of worship if intelligence agencies believe religious leaders are inciting violence in France or abroad or justifying acts of terrorism.