Fri, July 15, 2011
World > Europe

France celebrates National Day under clouds of security concerns

2011-07-15 00:22:48 GMT2011-07-15 08:22:48(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

French aircraft trail smoke in the colours of France's tricolour over the Arc de Triomphe and the the Champs Elysees at the start of the traditional Bastille Day parade in Paris, Thursday July 14, 2011.(AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere)

Republican Guards ride past the Arc de Triomphe during the traditional Bastille Day parade in Paris, Thursday, July 14, 2011. (AP Photo/Philippe Wojazer)

Republican guards parade down the Champs Elysees, during the traditional Bastille Day parade in Paris, Thursday July 14, 2011. (AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere)

France's president Nicolas Sarkozy stands with Chief of Staff, Admiral Edouard Guillaud, right, in the command car during the annual Bastille Day parade on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris, Thursday July 14, 2011. (AP Photo/Eric Feferberg, Pool) Troops from the French Foreign Legion parade during the annual Bastille Day parade, Thursday July 14, 2011 on the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris. (AP Photo/Jacques Brinon)

Republican Guards stand at attention during the annual Bastille Day parade on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris, Thursday July 14, 2011. (AP Photo/Eric Feferberg)

Soldiers of the French Foreign Legion march during the Bastille Day parade in Paris, July 14, 2011. (REUTERS/Benoit Tessier)

PARIS, July 14 (Xinhua) -- As usual, on the National Day of France the Champs Elysees Avenue was featured by a pomp of military parade and flight show, but the death of six French soldiers in the past 48 hours in Afghanistan made the ceremony on Thursday morning retain a grief aura and highlighted the security issue.

According to official data, some 7,000 soldiers participated the traditional parade, including 300 armored vehicles, 240 horses and 84 jets and helicopters flying over the sky. Among them, the group of French troop back from overseas operations in Afghanistan and Libya gained the most attention.

Hours before the parade, President Nicolas Sarkozy met with injured soldiers in Afghanistan at the Bercy military hospital, noting July 14 "should enable every French to express his affection and admiration to all those young soldiers ..."

Security concerns went through the celebration of the republic's 222th anniversary. Over the night to the National Day, some 328 persons were interrogated and 220 were placed in custody in Paris and its suburbs, according to Paris police.

Right after the parade, the Elysee Palace announced the sixth death of French soldier in two days, bringing the country's total fatalities in Afghanistan since 2001 to 70.

So far, France has over 14,000 soldiers deployed overseas. Some 4,000 are stationed in Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). The recent casualties turned the national festival to a serious moment to ponder over France's overseas security policy.

Faced with more terrorist-type attacks apart from military actions, French troops need new security measures to deal with the new context before their final departure from Afghanistan, Sarkozy said before the security meeting attended by French Prime Minister Francois Fillon, Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, Defense Minister Gerard Longuet, General Staff Edouard Guillaud and some other senior officials.

The meeting decided to commission French Chief of Army Staff Elrick Irastorza to Afghanistan "in the coming hours" to reinforce the security of French troops deployed there, Defense Minister Gerard Longuet said in the afternoon.

After assessing the situation in Afghanistan, General Irastorza would present a report back to Sarkozy in a week on how to plan the progressive withdrawal starting from this year to 2014, according to Longuet.

During a television interview after watching the parade, Sarkozy repeated his firmness on the fight against terrorism, promising intensified safety measures before French troop's final departure from Afghanistan. However, he didn't mention any adjustment to accelerate the withdrawal.

France has planned a progressive retreat from Afghanistan beginning this year and expected to withdraw the last French soldier in 2014 with the first quarter departing the restless country by the end of 2012.

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