A terror suspect believed to be planning attacks on churches in France was arrested after he accidentally shot himself and called the emergency services, according to police sources.
The 24-year-old man, an IT student and an Algerian national, was arrested on Sunday morning, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve announced on Wednesday.
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The man, who has not been named, is also suspected of killing Aurélie Châtelain, a 32-year-old fitness instructor, on Sunday in the Villejuif suburb of Paris, Cazeneuve said.
An arrest was made after emergency services responded to the man's call following what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Police were then alerted and were able to trace a blood trail to a nearby car that contained an “arsenal of weapons”.
In an eerie reminder of January’s Charlie Hebdo attacks, in which 17 people were killed by Islamist gunmen, the haul included a number of handguns, a Kalashnikov assault rifle and bullet proof vests. A search of the man’s apartment later uncovered three more Kalashnikov rifles.
“Documents were also found that establish without any ambiguity that this individual was planning an attack on one or two churches,” Cazeneuve said .
According to RTL radio, police also discovered flashing blue lights of the type that fix magnetically to police car roofs, as well as orange “Police” armbands that are used by French plainclothes officers.
Cazeneuve added that the man, who has not been named, was known to intelligence services for wanting to fight with jihadists in Syria.
France has heightened surveillance by police and intelligence agencies since the January attacks, with 10,000 soldiers patrolling sensitive sites across France.
“France, like other European countries, is facing a terror threat of an unprecedented nature and amplitude,” Cazeneuve said. “We are maintaining total and constant vigilance.”
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Wednesday said “terrorists are targeting France to divide us” but that the country was “determined to stay united”.
“France faces a terrorist threat without precedent in our country’s history,” he added.
Jean-Louis Bruguière, a former French counter-terrorism magistrate, linked the arrest to the Islamic State (IS) group and warned that IS and other jihadist groups had an “evolving strategy” towards France.
"It’s a fact that we’re facing an increasing threat from terrorists and IS poses a very critical problem to France,” he said. “From what [Cazeneuve] said – it’s the first time a Catholic Church [was selected as a target]. It shows the scope of targets is widening.”
Date created : 2015-04-22