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France extends state of emergency

The terror threat to France "has never been higher," the French interior minister told the National Assembly. However, human rights organizations have decried excessive actions taken by French police under the measure.

The National Assembly - France's lower house - voted late Tuesday in favor of a second three-month extension to the country's state of emergency. The measure was implemented following the November 13 terrorist attacks claimed by the "Islamic State" militant group.

November's attacks marked the second time Paris was targeted by militant groups in a year, after the offices of the "Charlie Hebdo" satirical magazine and a kosher supermarket were attacked in January 2015.

Parliamentarians voted 212 in favor to 31 against, with three abstentions, after the upper house Senate approved the extension last week.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told deputies of the National Assembly that the terror threat to France "has never been higher," adding that "an imminent danger has not gone away."

Under the state of emergency, police have the power to place under house arrest without a court order any person considered "a threat to security and public order." It also allows them to conduct searches at any hour without prior approval from a court.

Since the attacks, authorities have conducted some 3,340 searches resulting in more than 340 arrests and placed 285 people under house arrest.

The searches "have been able to disrupt the organization of the networks which arm and finance terrorism, in particular with regards to the trafficking of arms and drugs," Cazeneuve told the National Assembly.

Cazeneuve: An imminent danger has not gone away.

Cazeneuve: "An imminent danger has not gone away."

'Some abuses'

However, the searches have been criticized by human rights bodies and organizations, including the intergovernmental Council of Europe.

The Council of Europe said it is concerned about "some abuses" committed by "police officers" during searches, a few of which have been handled quite violently.

"France has a responsibility to ensure public safety and to try to prevent further attacks, but the police have used their new emergency powers in abusive, discriminatory and unjustified ways," said Issa Leghtas, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, speaking with the dpa news agency.

"This abuse has traumatized families and tarnished reputations, leaving targets feeling like second-class citizens," Leghtas added.

The state of emergency is expected to remain in place until May 26.

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ls/cmk (AFP, AP)

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