French lifeguards to carry guns
A lifeguard of the Compagnies Republicaines de securite watches over swimmers on a French beachReuters/Charles Platiau

France is stepping up security at holiday sites this summer, amid concerns that Islamist terrorists could be targeting tourists. Armed police and soldiers will be patrolling beaches, festivals, fairs, stations and airports.

The French government has said that an additional 23,000 troops and police officers will be deployed to holiday destinations during the summer months to offer protection to tourists.

Fears over another Isis attack have resulted in the Cannes council imposing a ban on backpacks and other large non-transparent bags in which bombs could be hidden on its beaches. Those who flout these regulations will be ordered to leave the beach and fined, The Times reported on Wednesday (27 July).

Bernard Cazeneuve, French Interior Minister said there are concerns that terrorists could strike holiday makers at festivals, open-air concerts and other gatherings this summer. Security reinforcements will be deployed at 56 such events, he said.

The additional security boost includes a move to equip Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité (CRS) riot police officers in France to wear special holsters that will allow them to carry firearms for the first time. Previously, these officers only carried batons and handcuffs, The Guardian reports.

In addition, CRS riot police officers will also have bulletproof vests at their disposal.

France continues to remain under a state of emergency after November 2015's deadly terror attacks which left 130 dead. The French National Assembly voted on 20 July 2016 to extend the state of emergency to the end of January 2017. The additional extension will have to be approved by the Senate.

Following the Paris attack, a series of other terror attacks took place in France, including the Bastille Day celebrations attack in Nice which saw 84 people killed. On 26 July, an 85-year-old priest was killed in his church on Normandy.

There is also an ongoing debate in France on whether the security forces should be allowed to carry weapons outside working hours.

Police lifeguards to carry arms

France announced in June that specialists police lifeguards will be authorised to carry arms while patrolling French beaches this summer. The lifeguards of the CRS have been given the right to carry weapons following the double murder of a French police commander and his partner at their home

Nicolas Comte, a spokesman from the Unite SGP Police-Force Ouvriere, the group representing the French national police said that although there have been no specific terrorist threats, the move is to ensure the safety for everyone.

"This is the first time that these officers will be armed. Normally throughout July and August they are in their swimsuits and unarmed," he was quoted by local news organisations. CRS officers will be clearly identified by their police badges.

"We can see these days that the police are the target of terrorists, but this is also to ensure the police are ready to respond in the event of an armed attack. This is a win-win situation for everyone. It means that there are people to provide security for everyone when they are on the beach. Holidaymakers will not see police in heavy armour, they will see lifeguards," Comte said.