French army paratroopers patrol near the Eiffel tower in Paris, France, March 30, 2016. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer(reuters_tickers)
By Julie Carriat
PARIS (Reuters) - France will guarantee a 20-minute response of police and military anti-terrorism units to any future militant attacks, drawing on lessons learned from November's Islamic State shootings in Paris, its interior minister said on Tuesday.
Besides more security personnel, specialist units will get new clearances to bypass the traditional carve-up of responsibilities between police and military forces that can hinder a timely armed response, Bernard Cazeneuve said.
The measures will ensure a minimum 20-minute response to attacks on population centres anywhere in France, he said.
"In a crisis our citizens expect faultless collaboration at all times," Cazeneuve told a news conference. "It's no time for competition between forces, but rather for unity, pooling resources and cooperating in our common interest."
In the wake of the Nov. 13 attack on the Bataclan concert hall, which killed 90 people, questions were asked about why a police assault was ordered a full two hours and 40 minutes after militants began shooting people inside.
A further 40 people were killed in coordinated gun attacks on nearby bars and restaurants.
A parliamentary committee last month heard that military units were close to the music venue at the time but did not intervene. Incidents within Paris typically fall within the competence of the specialist BRI police division, which arrived on the scene within about 40 minutes.
Jean-Luc Taltavull, a senior police union official, also told the committee that better-armed military personnel outside the Bataclan had refused to join police preparing to enter the building because they had not been ordered to do so.
During an earlier hearing on March 7, Cazeneuve dismissed suggestions that the armed response had been too slow.
"In a context like that, where there are suicide belts and the place may be rigged with explosives, and we don't know how many terrorists are present or where they are, you can't intervene until you have the site under control," he said.
(Writing by Laurence Frost; Editing by Mark Heinrich)