France is beefing up security across the country, with as many as 300 French soldiers being deployed nationwide for Christmas in response to three separate attacks in three French cities, two involving motorists driving into people and one involving a knife attack on police officers. In two of the attacks -- namely, the one on police officers and one of the vehicular attacks -- the attackers invoked an Arabic phrase praising God. The French government said the incidents do not appear to be related, but an investigation is ongoing to determine whether radical Islam fueled them.
"The number of patrols will be increased during this [Christmas] period,” French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on television, according to Agence France-Presse. “Two hundred to 300 soldiers will be deployed in the coming hours.” Valls’ announcement came as French President Francois Hollande was expected to convene an emergency cabinet meeting on the attacks.
Valls was trying to calm the public after the three incidents injured 23 people in France from Saturday to Monday. The latest occurred in Nantes on Monday, when a van driver crashed into a Christmas market and injured 10 people, according to the BBC. On Sunday in Dijon, another 13 people were hurt after a driver shouting “Allahu akbar” (or “God is great”) drove into pedestrians at five different locations in the city, according to Al Jazeera. The Dijon attacker was believed to have been mentally ill and had been admitted to a psychiatric hospital, a source close to the investigation told AFP.
In the third attack, police shot dead a man who also screamed “Allahu akbar” and attacked three officers with a knife in the central French city of Tours, according to the BBC. A French police union official said the suspect, a French national born in Burundi, used a long knife in the attack. The incident is being investigated for terrorism links, according to the BBC.
Valls told Radio 1 Europe that there was “no link” among the three attacks, but he urged the French people to be aware of their surroundings in light of the incidents. "The best response is to continue to live peacefully with the necessary vigilance of course," he said, according to the BBC.