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France: Euro 2016 kickoff amid tight security, strikes

France: Euro 2016 kickoff amid tight security, strikes
France is on high alert with ongoing strikes , less than one day from start of the European football championship

PARIS (AA)- Just one day from the European football championship, French authorities are gearing up to host more than 2.5 million ticket holders and millions more fans across 10 cities with beefed-up security even as the country faces a wave of labor unrest.

Less than 24 hours before the first whistle blows on Friday, France is still dealing with the aftermath of torrential rain that caused the Seine to rise to levels not seen in three decades, and ongoing protests against a proposed labor law.

Train services are still disrupted and canceled for the eighth day on Friday as France’s leading union, the CGT, threatening to continue the strike until the Socialist government scraps the contested labor bill, dubbed the El Khomri law after Labor Minister Myriam El Khomri.

Alain Krakovitch, director of the country’s rail company SNCF Transilien, called on fans attending Friday’s France-Romania match in Stade de France at Saint-Denis, near Paris, to “come to the stadium as soon as possible”.

The stadium will open at 6 p.m. three hours before the match starts.

Airline pilots’ two largest unions, SPNL and SPAF, last week filed for an official four-day strike, Saturday, June 11 to June 14.

Air France said on Thursday it would have to start announcing the first cancellations of flights for the strike period. The four-day Air France strike would affect as many as 2 million foreign visitors.

As if those strikes and the recent floods were not enough, sanitation workers started a strike last weekend, leading to bins and garbage piling up in the streets across the country.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls threatened on Wednesday to “heavily penalize” the strikers for their “strike which lasts for no reason.”

- Tight security

Fearing possible terrorist attacks targeting the country during the Euro 2016, up to 100,000 police and security personnel are being employed, including 13,000 special agents, to secure the tournament.

France has been under a state of emergency since a Daesh-blamed attack last November killed 130 people in Paris at several sites, including the Stade de France, the venue of Friday's opening game.

An increased budget of €24 million, financed by the French state and UEFA, is being spent to minimize risk at fan zones, which will welcome an estimated 7 million people throughout the country, according to France’s Interior Ministry.

Security around stadiums, fan zones, city centers, monuments, airports, and transport will be tightened with layers of body searches and ID checks, as well as a high presence of uniformed and plainclothes police and soldiers.

The Interior Ministry also launched a terror alert application on Wednesday, called SAIP, that sends warning flashes on a user's cellphone screen in case of an attack close to their location or suspicion of an imminent strike.

The application, available in English and French, is free to download on iOS and Android.

The British Foreign Office warned its citizens on Tuesday of a "high threat from terrorism" during the month-long championship. "During Euro 2016, stadiums, fan zones, venues broadcasting the tournament and transport hubs and links represent potential targets for terrorist attacks," the Foreign Office said.

The U.S. State Department gave a similar warning last week, saying that "unaffiliated entertainment venues broadcasting the tournament in France and across Europe" are also potential targets.

Monday’s arrest of a Frenchman with an arsenal of weapons in Ukraine raised security fears. He was reportedly plotting 15 terror attacks against mosques, synagogues, and state institutions ahead of and during the Euro 2016.

The tournament runs from June 10 to July 10 in France. It is the first time that 24 teams will play instead of 16.

The final match will be played at Stade de France in Saint-Denis on Sunday, July 10.

source: News Feed
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