France carries out biggest ever attack drill ahead of Euro 2016

French Army forces take part in a mock terrorist attack drill at a "fan zone" inside the National Police school in Nimes, France, in preparation of security measures for the UEFA 2016 European Championship, March 17, 2016. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier

PARIS (Reuters) - France has staged a mock chemical weapons attack on a soccer "fan zone" as it prepares for the Euro 2016 soccer championships in June, less than a year after Islamist militants killed 130 people in attacks in and around the French capital.

More than a thousand police and firemen took part in the attack response drill in the southern city of Nîmes, the largest ever carried out in France.

The exercise was designed to simulate a chemical attack in a "fan zone", a closed perimeter area where soccer fans will be able to monitor the competition on giant outdoor screens when not attending matches in one of the 10 stadiums.

A Reuters witness saw dozens of police and military officers taking part in the drill, some of them equipped with gas masks.

French anti-terrorism police arrested a group with Islamist militant ties on Wednesday, suspecting one of them may have been planning another attack in the capital.

"In Nîmes, it was about a chemical or bacteriological threat," Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve was quoted as saying in daily newspaper 20 minutes.

"We don't believe there is a genuine risk of this type of attack but we must envisage every hypothesis."

It will be the third time that France hosted the UEFA European Championship after having been chosen for the 1960 inaugural tournament and the finals in 1984.

(Reporting by Matthias Blamont; Editing by Toby Chopra)