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France trains for Mumbai-style attacks

PARIS (Reuters) - French security forces staged an exercise on Monday designed to test how they would respond to a series of coordinated attacks in several major cities, an exercise based on last month’s militant attacks in Mumbai.

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In a simulation coordinated by the Interior Ministry, the emergency services went through a scenario of seven attacks, all of which took place within 45 minutes of each other.

“Our country is no more threatened than others, (but) we must be able to adapt to all risks of attack,” Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie told reporters.

France is considered a target for Islamic militants because it helps its North African ex-colonies fight Islamic radicals, has troops in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban and shares intelligence with Washington and its ally London.

Monday’s simulation was designed to test command structures’ reactions and coordination rather than intervention on the ground, and therefore amounted to a large teleconferencing exercise rather than a large-scale outdoor rehearsal.

It also followed the discovery last week of explosives hidden in a busy Paris department store after a tip-off from a group demanding that French troops pull out of Afghanistan.

The exercise featured a gun attack in the La Defense financial district on the outskirts of Paris, an attack on a bank in the eastern city of Lyon, an explosion in a Paris train station followed by a bomb attack on rescue workers there.

They were followed by gun attacks on the Crillon luxury hotel and the Palais des Congres concert hall in Paris, a female suicide bomber in the southern city of Marseille and an airliner hijacking.

The interior ministry said it would give away few details on the outcome for fear of revealing any potential weaknesses.

“The lessons from the exercise are for internal use only and will not be made public,” Interior Ministry spokesman Gerard Gachet said.

Reporting by Gerard Bon; writing by Francois Murphy