FRENCH secret service agents protecting President Francois Hollande forgot to pack their guns on a foreign visit, it was reported yesterday.
In a blunder befitting Inspector Clouseau, the presidential guards from the elite GSPR unit only realised the guns were absent when they arrived at Rio de Janeiro airport for the UN climate conference this month.
The officers usually travel with a secured briefcase containing an array of firearms, and it later transpired that the guns had been left at the Elysee Palace in Paris.
"They searched the (presidential) Airbus with a fine tooth comb, to no avail," the French satirical weekly 'Le Canard Enchaine' reported. This meant that, for the duration of the trip, the bodyguards' only means of protecting Mr Hollande were their bare hands.
"In police memory, it's a first," said one elite officer.
The guard in charge of the weapons was soon identified and sacked because he reportedly tried to blame the neglect on somebody else.
Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, a government spokesman, said: "A bag of guns did indeed remain at the Elysee. It's true it was left behind, it's true it was considered a serious fault on the part of the officer in charge, and so his division commander fired him upon his return."
She denied that the president's entire protection unit was unarmed during the trip, saying the bodyguards carried "replacement guns".
Before the incident, Mr Hollande's bodyguards had complained to French media that the new president was making their lives difficult by wanting to remain, at all costs, a "normal" figure, even if that meant compromising his security. (© Daily Telegraph, London)