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French Security Forces Face Challenges In Preventing Further Terror Attacks


There is an attempted military coup underway in Turkey. The government has called on people to oppose the uprising. Meanwhile, the military, broadcasting on state TV, has declared martial law and enforced a curfew. We are following the latest developments, and we'll bring you more details throughout the evening.

We turn now to the situation in France, where last night a man drove a truck into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in the coastal city of Nice, killing scores of people and injuring more than 200. It was the third attack the country has suffered in a year and a half. France had been in a state of emergency for months. Guilhem Delteil is the terrorism correspondent with Radio France International. I asked him what authorities are doing differently now after this most recent attack.

GUILHEM DELTEIL: Well, the most striking thing, actually, last night, during President Hollande's speech just after the attacks, is that there was no big new measures announced. He asked a few people who retired from the police forces also to come and help the actual security forces now. But that's basically it.

SHAPIRO: Does that worry people if there are no major new steps being taken, if every tool in the toolbox was already being used and yet this attack in Nice still happened?

DELTEIL: I don't think there's anything that could have been done to prevent this from happening because it's a scenario where the guy just used anything to kill almost a hundred people. And it's very difficult to say what could have been done. That guy was not known by any intelligence services.

SHAPIRO: And how do you think the people of France are grappling with that reality?

DELTEIL: I think this is the most difficult part at the moment that we have to accept that the terrorist threat is at such a level that there's nothing we can really do to prevent it. And I think it's - it's really frightening for people.

SHAPIRO: And do you think that is reshaping the French mentality, to accept this as just a fact of life now?

DELTEIL: Well, it might be a bit too soon to know if it will reshape the French mentality. It's just - I mean, at least in the political discourses, everyone agrees on the facts that we have to learn to live up with that threat, except for the far right, which already wants to take France out of the Schengen zone and wants to take back control of the borders.

SHAPIRO: The Schengen zone is the open immigration within Europe.

DELTEIL: Yes, within the European Union. And the other political parties don't jump on the fact that there were failure of the intelligence services or of the police forces at that time.

SHAPIRO: You have reported on terrorism for a long time. How has your perspective on the terrorist threat in France changed just in the last couple of years?

DELTEIL: What became obvious yesterday and what was something that everyone in the security forces here feared a bit is that we can have massive attacks led by unorganized people. It's not a cell. It's not 10 or 12 people organized all together who bought weapons, who were trained in Syria and Iraq and who came back to lead attacks on our soil. It's just someone who was there, who was not even known for any terrorist activity or radical obedience at all. The guy from yesterday night seems to be quite different.

SHAPIRO: Guilhem Delteil is the terrorism correspondent for Radio France International, and he joined us via Skype. Thanks very much for talking with us.

DELTEIL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.