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French police to receive assault rifles, bullet-proof shields

A picture taken on February 29, 2016 in Paris shows a German HK G36 assault rifle during a presentation of the new equipment for the French anti-crime brigade (BAC) (AFP Photo)

French police are to be armed with assault rifles and Kalashnikov-resistant shields for the first time as a state of emergency continues in the country.

Police in Paris will be given the equipment following the Paris attacks in mid-November that left 130 people dead, the interior minister said Monday.

"Some of the criminals you are confronted with no longer hesitate to use heavy weapons against you, and you must be equipped with the means to fire back, and adequate protection," Cazeneuve told officers at a Parisian police station.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve (AFP Photo)

The weapons, up until now reserved for elite intervention forces, will allow members of certain police units "to intervene as fast as possible to reinforce the first patrols, notably when we are confronted with mass killings," said the minister Bernard Cazeneuve.

The anti-criminal (BAC) police units, who most often operate in plain clothes, will be given 204 Heckler and Koch G36 assault rifles, some 1,800 bullet-proof vests and 241 shields that are resistant to Kalashnikov bullets. The new equipment, which also includes Taser guns and other items, is worth 17 million euros ($18 million).

The state of emergency was introduced in the country after militants attacked a concert hall and several restaurants and cafes around Paris on November 13, killing 130 and leaving hundreds injured.

On January 27, France's highest administrative court, the Council of State, refused to lift the state of emergency, claiming the “imminent danger justifying the state of emergency has not disappeared, given the ongoing terrorist threat and the risk of attacks.”

United Nations human rights experts, however, said the measures imposed by the state of emergency were “excessive and disproportionate” restrictions on basic human rights.

A French anti-crime brigade (BAC) officer makes a shooting simulation with a new German HK G36 assault rifle on February 29, 2016 in Paris (AFP Photo)

Critics have called for an end to the imposed state of emergency.

They say the measures “strike at our freedom in the name of hypothetical security.”

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