Their faces obscured behind dark glasses, members of France’s anti-terror special operations units marched in the Bastille Day parade for the first time ever as France displayed its muscle in the anti-terror fight.
Nearly six months after a three-day terror spree that killed 20 people, members of France’s elite GIGN (National Gendarmerie Intervention Group), BRI (Research and Intervention Brigade) and RAID (Research, Assistance, Intervention and Dissuasion) squads marched down Champs-Elysées in Paris Tuesday.
Reporting from the Champs-Elysées as the military parade unfolded, FRANCE 24’s James Andre noted that the inclusion of the GIGN, BRI and RAID teams this year were an unusual break from tradition. “This is of course quite special because usually these men stay in the shadows. They paraded sporting sun glasses and the media were clearly told not to focus on their faces to make sure they cannot be recognized and their lives are not put in danger in future operations.”
French President François Hollande presided over the annual parade accompanied by this year’s guest of honour, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, whose government faces intense criticism following an audacious prison break of a major drug lord over the weekend.
The parade gave special recognition to the three armies and more than 10,000 soldiers who participated in France's stepped-up security measures following the attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. For the first time, accolades also went to emergency first-responders as well as several elite units of the national police force and gendarmerie specializing in counter-terror and hostage kidnappings.
But Tuesday’s parade was smaller and shorter than traditional parades, noted Andre, with French troops deployed in domestic anti-terror as well as international operations. “There were less men, less arms, less aircraft and vehicles because French security forces today are stretched with 10,000 men involved in anti-terror operations in France while another 10,000 are abroad in external operations.”
Security tightened in Paris and suburbs
Security was tight in the French capital and the neighbouring suburbs with more than 11,200 police and soldiers mobilised for the Bastille Day commemorations. An experimental device was also set up to neutralize drones that could disrupt the parade, according to French officials.
Following the morning parade, thousands of people are expected to gather near the Eiffel Tower for a concert organised by the city followed by the traditional fireworks display, which will be attended by Hollande and his Mexican counterpart.
However, this year’s commemorations did not feature the traditional meeting between the people and the military. "Physically exposing the military in the streets this way, no longer complies with safety rules,” explained FRANCE 24’s Matthieu Mabin.
(FRANCE 24 with AP)
Date created : 2015-07-14