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In Aftermath Of Paris Attacks, France Ramps Up Border Restrictions


We'll return now to the events in Paris and yesterday's bomb and gun attacks that killed at least 120 people. Last night, President Hollande declared a state of emergency. He mobilized the army to support the police and ordered restrictions imposed on French borders. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson has just crossed the French border with Germany and she's now in Paris. Soraya, thanks for being with us. And what was it like to get to Paris today?

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: It was amazingly easy considering what has been going on. I mean, it - I got on the train - the TGV, the high speed train from Munich, which went directly to Paris. And the only security that I saw was basically at the German side of the French border, where two stern-looking police officers got on board and basically were checking everyone out to make sure there weren't any suspicious-looking characters. But there were no passport checks. And once I passed into France itself, there was nobody. I mean, there were no police officers, the conductors, everybody looked relatively relaxed. I was not asked once for my ID.

SIMON: Of course, Paris is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. I wonder if you've seen many tourists today.

NELSON: Certainly on the train it was relatively full. Sitting across from a honeymooning couple through Canada, they were basically keeping track of what was going on with security issues on their devices and on their iPhone. And next to me was a German family with their children that also were coming in. Everybody seemed pretty relaxed and very determined to continue with their holiday, even though they were keeping track of what was happening news-wise.

SIMON: So nobody talked about having any reservations about coming to Paris.

NELSON: Absolutely not. And even at the train station, it was probably emptier than one would inspect on a fall weekend here. But it - everybody looked very relaxed, were rolling their suitcases and there were more coming in than were going out.

SIMON: Soraya, of course, you usually report for NPR from Germany. I understand there's been an arrest there. There might be some connection with the horrific events last night in Paris.

NELSON: Indeed, the Bavarian police reporting that a person that they arrested on November 5 - this was a man, 51 years old, that's the only way they're describing him. He was arrested driving his VW Golf, crossing the border according to Bavarian Rundfunk, or network, which is the public radio network. And they found that he was carrying firearms and also two-and-a-half pounds of explosives that were hidden within compartments within the car and that he had some documents, apparently, that indicated he was going to Paris. Now, where he received the weapons and the explosives from, he did not tell the police. But apparently it's connected. That is what Bavarian police are saying. They won't say more about him or where he's from. And we have to wait and see now whether he, in fact, was connected to one of the attacks.

SIMON: NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, thanks so much for being with us.

NELSON: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
Special correspondent Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is based in Berlin. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and read at NPR.org. From 2012 until 2018 Nelson was NPR's bureau chief in Berlin. She won the ICFJ 2017 Excellence in International Reporting Award for her work in Central and Eastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.