French soldiers joined heavily-armed police, SWAT teams, and bomb squad experts this week in the face of a real and present Islamic threat to Lourdes, one the world’s holiest Christian shrines.
UK Express Millions of pilgrims, many of whom are disabled, are drawn to the healing waters of the site in south west France every year where, in 1858, the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to Saint Bernadette Soubirous. And the numbers swell on August 15 – the Catholic feast day of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.
But intelligence experts pinpointed a Muslim attack and French authorities have massively stepped up security measures to ward off any potential terror threats. An additional 300 police officers, including SWAT-style mobile intervention teams, soldiers, bomb squads, dog units, and security guards were deployed to Lourdes to help the local forces, raising the overall security presence to more than 500.
Upping the town’s security became a priority after two MUSLIM terrorists claiming allegiance to the Islamic State murdered an 84-year-old Catholic priest during mass in July. Despite the looming terror threat, Lourdes officials refused to call off this year’s pilgrimage, even though many summer festivals around France have been cancelled.