Commonwealth summit commences with tight security in Malta

The leaders of 53 countries gathered in Valletta, the capital city of Malta Friday for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

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Commonwealth

The Maltese government beefed up security measures as Europe remains on heightened terror alert in the aftermath of the Paris attacks.

CommonwealthThis summit is viewed as particularly important as the leaders of more than 50 countries gather in Europe just two weeks after the Paris attacks, which killed 130 people.

One security measure that the Maltese government has already taken is temporarily suspending the Schengen agreement and re-imposing national border controls.

The suspension of Schengen, which allows movement of citizens within the EU without any border checks, will remain in place until Dec. 31, Maltese Home Affairs Minister Carmelo Abela said.

On Friday morning, armed police and soldiers are patrolling the streets and warships are standing guard in the harbors, helicopters are hovering in the sky.

According to the security arrangement, schools will be closed in Valletta on Friday and many parts of the city will be in lockdown, including the San Anton palace and key CHOGM venues.

Accompanying the arrivals of 89 years old Queen Elizabeth II and many of the 53 Commonwealth leaders, the Police and Armed Forces of Malta has enhanced security presence in key strategic locations.

When the planes carrying Britain’s Queen and the royal family landed at Malta international airport on Thursday, armed forces of Malta vehicles waited on the runway, with armed soldiers escorting the planes as soon as they landed.

Several teams of snipers were seen on rooftops offering a good view of the runway as a helicopter hovered over headed.

Outside the San Anton Palace, where an official welcoming ceremony was held for the Queen, heavy police were assigned to crowd management, although only a very limited number of media and people were allowed to approach.

Meanwhile, Malta has sought the assistance of the UK government in the provision of tighter security. Britain has made available its HMS Bulwark, the HMS Somerset as well as Merlin helicopters and Typhoon fighter jets.

The tighter security controls were in place as a precaution, Prime Minister of Malta Joseph Muscat has said, adding that the island did not face any known threat.

However, several foreigners with false passports have been founded through the security checks. The government said they were coming to Malta to seek asylum and work after investigation. Enditem

Source: Xinhua

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