3 French airports, Palace of Versailles evacuated in latest security alerts

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Workers wait outside the gate at The Palace of Versailles on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023 in Versailles, France. One of France's most visited tourist attractions, was evacuated for a security scare, for the the second time in four days, with France on heightened alert against feared attacks after the fatal stabbing of a school teacher. (AP Photo/Pat Eaton-Robb)

PARIS – The Palace of Versailles and three airports in cities across France were evacuated for security reasons and temporarily closed Wednesday, the latest in a spate of evacuations in the past five days around France.

The former royal chateau of Versailles apologized to visitors for forcing them to evacuate from the sumptuous 17th-century palace “for security reasons.” The tourist attraction said on X, formerly Twitter, that it reopened hours later after checks. It was the third time since the weekend that the palace had to evacuate visitors.

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Meanwhile three airports in the cities of Lyon, Toulouse and Lille received emailed threats Wednesday, police said, without elaborating on the nature of the threats. The airports all reopened to passengers and staff after security checks.

The evacuations were the latest in a series around France that included another popular tourist attraction, the Louvre Museum in Paris. They followed the killing of a teacher in the northern city of Arras on Friday by a suspected Islamist extremist. The threats have so far proved false.

The Louvre Museum and the Chateau of Versailles were both evacuated Saturday, and the former royal palace was again evacuated Tuesday.

Government spokesman Olivier Veran said that the multiple security alerts and evacuations must not grip France with fear.

“This is what the terrorists are waiting for, to terrorize us ... We can be vigilant and I prefer to speak about a vigilant society," Veran said in answer to a question after the weekly Cabinet meeting.

“Vigilance, yes. Fear, no,” he added. “And even less so terror, and not psychosis.”

Security alerts are evaluated on a case by case basis in coordination with the police, he added.

The prefecture for the Lyon region reminded the public that communicating false information can lead to prison and a heavy fine.

In the Riviera city of Nice, an abandoned piece of luggage also briefly disrupted operations at the airport.

The high school in Arras, where the teacher was murdered by a former student suspected to be an Islamist terrorist, was evacuated on Monday after a security alert, ahead of a moment of silence in schools across France.

It was not clear whether the spate of security threats was linked to the fatal stabbing of the teacher or whether France might be a victim of fallout from the war between Israel and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.

France has heightened its threat alert level, allowing authorities to add 7,000 soldiers to the 3,000 already in French streets. They are tasked with guarding Jewish places of worship, schools, train stations and other sensitive areas.

The anti-terrorism prosecutor said on Tuesday that the suspect declared his allegiance to the so-called Islamic State group before the fatal stabbing.

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Jeffrey Schaeffer in Paris contributed.