January 21, 2015 / 8:59 AM / 3 years ago

France reinforces security, spy agencies after attacks

Flowers, candles and messages are placed at the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket near Porte de Vincennes in eastern Paris, January 12, 2015.Yves Herman

PARIS (Reuters) - France is to recruit thousands of extra police, spies and investigators to boost national security and intelligence, Prime Minister Manuel Valls announced on Wednesday, two weeks after 17 people were killed by Islamist militants.

Warning the threat remained high after the most deadly Islamist attack on French soil, Valls said the state would hire 2,680 in the police, justice, intelligence and defense sectors by 2018 for anti-jihadi work, surveillance and security.

Several thousand planned job cuts in the army are to be canceled and dozens of extra Muslim chaplains deployed to work with potential militants in France's overcrowded jails.

"The fight against terrorism, jihadism and radical Islam will be a long haul," Valls told a news conference after the measures were agreed by President Francois Hollande's cabinet.

"The first requirement is that we further reinforce the human and material assets of our intelligence services," said Valls, who after the Jan. 7-9 attacks conceded there could have been "shortfalls" in monitoring and justice arrangements.

France is struggling to monitor an estimated 1,200 radical Islamists and some 200 people who have returned from fighting with militant groups in Syria and Iraq.

Valls said a possible penalty would be debated under which offenders would be stripped of certain civic rights such as voting, holding office or working for the state.

Despite commitments worth a total 425 million euros ($492 million) in extra spending, Valls said France would respect public finance commitments made to its EU partners.

Hollande said in a separate statement he would maintain 7,500 military jobs due to be cut in the defense sector. Total armed forces personnel in France was 278,000 at the end of 2013.

SUSPECTED ACCOMPLICES INVESTIGATED

The three gunmen who attacked satirical journal Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket were killed by security forces.

Somali Islamist militant group al Shabaab praised al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) over the attack, describing them in a statement as "the pioneers of external operations that target the heart of the Crusader enemies".

Four men aged 22 to 28 were placed under formal investigation over the killing of a police officer and of four hostages at the Jewish store near Paris, a prosecutor said.

The men are suspected of having bought weapons including knives and tear gas found among the possessions of the gunman who attacked the kosher store.

The investigation is also looking into the possibility some accomplices had fled France.

($1 = 0.8641 euros)

Reporting by James Regan, Chine Labbe, Elizabeth Pineau; Writing by Nicholas Vinocur; Editing by Mark John and Ralph Boulton

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