France holds security meeting to discuss protecting schools

FILE - Police approach the cab of a truck driven by Mohamed Lahouaiyej Bouhlel, a Tunisian who plowed through a crowded promenade, killing at least 84 people in Nice, France, in this July 14, 2016, file photo. Bouhlel’s family and neighbors say he was indifferent to religion, but French authorities have linked the attack to Islamic State. (NADER EL SHAFEI via AP, File) MANDATORY CREDIT

PARIS — The French government held a special security meeting Wednesday to discuss increasing protection measures at schools after a series of deadly extremist attacks in the country.

The meeting, led by President Francois Hollande, was designed to adapt security measures to the new school year starting in September. The extremist threat is still at a "very high level," Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.

As summer winds down, the number of military troops protecting sensitive sites will be decreased in the French regions and increased in Paris, Le Drian said.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said he will announce specific measures to protect schools next week in coordination with Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem.

Cazeneuve also confirmed the goal to form a national guard of 84,000 people in the coming months, based on the existing reserve forces, to help ensure security.

French intelligence services "are conducting investigations every day" and are making arrests of "individuals we think could pose a threat," Cazeneuve said.

France has been under a state of emergency since attacks claimed by Islamic State in Paris in November killed 130, extended after a radical truck driver killed 85 in Nice.

Later Wednesday, Hollande visits the Vatican to meet Pope Francis and discuss an attack on a Catholic Church last month in northwest France, in which extremists slit a priest's throat.

Authorities are also concerned about religious tensions in Corsica after a weekend clash between local residents and beachgoers of North African descent.

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