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French President Hollande hits out at critics of Nice attack response

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls (L) speaks with Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve during the parliamentary debate on the state of emergency
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls (L) speaks with Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve during the parliamentary debate on the state of emergency Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

French President François Hollande on Wednesday said that 15,000 police reservists will be mobilised by the end of month, forming a sort of "National Guard" to face up to the threat of further terror attacks. He contrasted the reservists' "example" with the "one-upmanship" of right-wing critics of the handling of last week's Nice attacks that killed 84 people.

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"One can say that with you France is creating a National Guard," Hollande told reservists at a training centre in south-west France, pointing out that police and gendarmerie reservists have been joined by those who retired less than two years ago to bring the total to 12,000 operational at the moment and 15,000 by the end of the month.

The establishment of a National Guard, a permanent military reserve force, is a longstanding proposal backed by politicians ranging from the liberal François Bayrou to the far-right Marine Le Pen and Hollande's Socialist Party is planning to put it in its manifesto for the 2017 presidential election.

Hollande said he had also called on Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to order the 28,000 military reservists to stand by "for the coming weeks".

Hollande hits out at critics

The reservists' example is "a contrast to those people who have tried to sink into amalgams and one-upmanship", Hollande declared, in a swipe at the right-wing and far-right critics of his government's handling of the Nice attack.

Although the lower house of parliament extended the state of emergency for six months by 489 to 26 with four abstentions, there were bitter recriminations during the debate and they continued on Wednesday.

Former prime minister François Fillon told French radio that Hollande symbolises the "lack of determination" to fight terrorism, while Nice deputy mayor and regional council chair Christian Estrosi called for an inquiry into his claim that there were not enough police on duty in his city on Bastille Day.

Media have also raised the fact that no concrete blocks, which could have prevented Bouhlel driving his lorry into the crowd, were placed on the seafront, as they had been for the Euro 2016, and that he was able to ignore a ban on heavy goods vehicles circulating on the public holiday.

Some Nice residents have said they will launch a civil suit against the French state and possibly the local council over alleged negligence, with the father of a two-year-old girl who died, claiming that he covered 200 metres without seeing a single police officer.

"After such a tragedy anger is legitimate," Hollande commented. "But it must not damage our indispensable unity or harm the necessary cohesion."

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve was also on the defensive Wednesday, dismissing Le Pen's call for him to resign.

"In stirring up antagonisms with their speeches the FN brings comfort to the terrorists' aims, to create insurmountable divisions," he toldLe Monde newspaper.

Local security officials' behaviour was "exemplary", Cazeneuve said.

Fifteen Nice victims' lives in danger

The lives of 15 of the 331 people injured in the Nice attack are still in danger, Hollande revealed.

Nearly half of those killed were foreigners, the Foreign Affairs Ministry announced on Tuesday.

Thirty-eight nationals of 19 countries, including Algeria, Germany, the US, Russia, Italy, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey, have died, the ministry said.

About 30 were Muslims, according to local imams.

Five people were still detained for questioning on Wednesday, with one man, who is alleged to have received an SMS about weapons from the perpetrator, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, having his detention extended.Two others, including Bouhlel's estranged wife, have been released.

Paris cancels summer events

Several events planned for this summer in Paris will be cancelled, the police authority announced Wednesday.

There are insufficient guarantees of the security of some of them, including the pedestrianisaiton of the Champs Elysées, an open-air cinema festival and a baskteball tournament, the préfecture said.

Security for the Paris plages beach on the banks of the Seine, whose partners this year are Tunis and Sousse in Bouhlel's native Tunisia, is to be beefed up with concrete blocks to prevent access to vehicles and searches of people entering the designated area.

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