France’s Mont Saint-Michel Reopened After Security Threat

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The Mont-Saint-Michel in northwestern France. Credit: AP

French authorities have reopened one of the country's most popular tourist sites, Mont Saint-Michel abbey, after calling off an alert caused by a man threatening the police.

The local government evacuated the major tourist attraction "as a precautionary measure" after the man had made aggressive comments aboard a bus headed to the Normandy islet and threatened to attack local police.

A tourist guide reported the man at around 7:45 am (0545 GMT) after he made threatening comments on a shuttle bus carrying visitors to the rocky islet, a UNESCO world heritage site off the coast of Normandy in northwest France.

"I have evacuated the mount as a precautionary measure because no one knows the real intentions of this individual," top local official Jean-Marc Sabathe told France Bleu radio.

Police searched the site but failed to find him, Sabathe added.

“All houses have been checked, all public and private venues were inspected by the police,” he said. “I’m almost certain that he’s gone.”

“End of the operation at Mont Saint-Michel ... All risks have been averted at the site,” the local government said on Twitter.

At the height of the evacuation, three police helicopter circled over the peninsula and the surrounding region.

Mont Saint-Michel, which is surrounded by water at high tide, sits about a kilometer off Normandy and is attached to the mainland by a bridge. It draws more than a million visitors a year to its abbey and other sites, making it France’s biggest tourist attraction outside Paris.

FRANCE ON HIGH ALERT

Tourists were blocked from entering during the lockdown as around 50 police conducted a house-to-house search.

Holidaymakers were evacuated from hotels and the abbey was shut.

"There was no panic, we were just surprised," said Denis Surfys, a holidaying journalist.

Xavier Bailly, head of the monastery which looms over the island, said police had ordered him to stay at home.

The alert comes with France still on high alert following a string of extremist attacks since 2015 that have killed more than 240 people.

Security forces have repeatedly been the target of attacks, most recently during a shooting spree and supermarket hostage-taking in the southern city of Carcassonne and nearby Trebes.

Four people were killed in the attack last month, including a police officer who offered to take the place of a woman whom attacker Radouane Lakdim was using as a human shield.

Lakdim, 25, had earlier shot at a group of police officers out jogging, wounding one of them.

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