Saturday 3 December 2016

Fanzones will be prime target for terrorists, security expert warns Irish supporters

Ryan Nugent

Published 08/06/2016 | 10:13

French Police forces take part in a mock attack drill outside the Grand Stade stadium (aka Parc Olympique Lyonnais or the Stade des Lumieres) in Decines, near Lyon, France, in preparation of security measures for the UEFA 2016 European Championship May 30, 2016. REUTERS/Robert Pratta
French Police forces take part in a mock attack drill outside the Grand Stade stadium (aka Parc Olympique Lyonnais or the Stade des Lumieres) in Decines, near Lyon, France, in preparation of security measures for the UEFA 2016 European Championship May 30, 2016. REUTERS/Robert Pratta

IRELAND supporters need to steer clear of organised fanzones at Euro 2016 for fears of a terror attack, according to a leading security expert.

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An estimated crowd of between 75,000 and 85,000 fans are set to travel to France over the next week to support the Boys in Green at the tournament.

However, many of these supporters will not have tickets for all of or any of the team's Group E matches and instead intend on watching the matches in the large fanzones close to host stadiums and landmarks in France.

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The managing director of international security firm GlobalStrat said the fanzones are a lot more difficult to secure than stadiums and added that he was fearful of attacks on the thousands of supporters that will be watching the games there.

Olivier Guitta said that he would advise French authorities to cancel the fanzones.

Republic of Ireland supporters during Euro 2012 Photo: Sportsfile
Republic of Ireland supporters during Euro 2012 Photo: Sportsfile

"The spectrum of threat is much more to the fanzones that the French are organising," Mr Guitta told RTE.

"They're going to be outside the stadiums and under the Eiffel Tower and they're going to have people watching the games on large screens showing the matches. Those fanzones are very difficult to secure compared to the stadium.

"I'm very concerned of a potential attack on those zones rather than the stadium. I think the fanzone needs to be cancelled. They should cancel it, I would not advise anyone to go there."

The fresh worries come after a Frenchman was arrested in Ukraine in May with an arsenal of explosives and weapons.

The man had initially been believed to be organising a number of attacks during the tournament.

However, Mr Guitta thinks it is more likely that the man was an arms dealer.

Read more: Driving to the Euros? 75pc of Irish fans don't know France's emergency number in case of accident

"I tend to think he was much more of a weapons dealer than a terrorist, but that doesn't undermine the fact that the Euros is under threat," he said.

The terror expert insisted that this year's tournament would be one of, if not the most secure events ever staged, but said that there was still a threat.

The Irish team's opening clash is with Sweden in the Stade de France on Monday. A large number of Ireland supporters are expected to join together at a fanzone at the Eiffel Tower in Paris to watch that game.

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan has urged supporters going to the tournament to exercise a high level of caution. He said it was a concern that France was still operating under a state of emergency.

It is understood that there will be a number of security precautions, including security cordons, bag searches and checkpoints.

In Britain, the Department of Foreign Affairs warned supporters to be "vigilant at all times" in busy areas of France.

"During Euro 2016, stadiums, fan zones, venues broadcasting the tournament and transport hubs and links represent potential targets for terrorist attacks," it said.

Supporters have been advised to follow the advice of local French authorities while at the tournament.

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