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Champions League host nations tighten security after Islamic State threats

FRANCE and Spain will step up security ahead of the Champions League quarter-finals in Madrid and Paris on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, top officials said, as Islamic State threatened drone attacks on Europe’s top club soccer tournament.

British police said they were aware of reports of threats and had a robust policing plan in place ahead of Arsenal’s match against Bayern Munich in London on Tuesday night.

The threats against some of the world’s most-watched soccer matches underline the resurgence of Islamic State after several deadly attacks this year, including in Iran and Moscow.

They also point to the complex geopolitical backdrop to the world’s biggest single sporting event, the Olympic Games, set to take place in Paris in July and August.

At a press event to discuss Olympic security on Tuesday, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told reporters that police had “considerably strengthened security” for Wednesday’s fixture between Paris St Germain (PSG) and Barcelona in Paris.

“We have seen, among other things, a communication from the Islamic State that particularly targets stadiums. It is not new,” he added.

Islamic State published a post urging followers to recreate a November 2015 attack on the Stade de France stadium, featuring an image of PSG’s Parc des Princes stadium, according to Site Intelligence group, which tracks Islamic militant communications.

Another post seen by Site Intelligence urged militants to use drones to attack the stadiums if they could not physically reach the location.

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“If they constrict and oppress on the ground, then strike them from the sky,” said the post, which featured a quadcopter flying over Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

Real play Manchester City in the Spanish capital on Tuesday night as Arsenal take on Bayern in London. Atletico Madrid then host Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday night at the same time as PSG play Barcelona.

“Of course, it’s worrying … Who in this room isn’t worried?” PSG coach Luis Enrique told reporters. “It’s something I hope can be controlled, and that they’re just threats and that nothing disastrous happens.”

EUROPE ON EDGE

London police’s Deputy Assistant Commissioner Ade Adelekan said in a statement: “We’re aware of online and media reports in relation to calls to target matches across Europe and here in London.”

“However, I want to reassure the public that we have a robust policing plan in place for tonight’s match and we continue to work closely alongside the club’s security team to ensure that the match passes peacefully.”

Spanish police forces will deploy more than 2,000 officers to boost security in the capital for the two games there, government spokesperson Pilar Alegria told reporters on Tuesday.

After being largely crushed by a U.S.-led coalition, Islamic State has been operating in the shadows in recent years, slowly rebuilding its capabilities via underground sleeper cells.

Its Afghan branch, known as ISIS-K, has been particularly active in recent months. The group claimed responsibility for a mass-fatality attack at a concert near Moscow last month and also carried out twin bombings in Iran that killed nearly 100 people earlier this year, according to U.S.-intercepted communications.

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By The African Mirror

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