Security forces prevented an attack on French military installations this week with the arrest of four people with links to jailed jihadists, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said on Wednesday.
The news of the arrests followed a statement from French President François Hollande, who said terrorist attacks had been foiled in recent days.
"This week, we stopped terrorist attacks which could have taken place," Hollande said on a visit to the French coastal city of Marseille.
The four suspects were aged between 16 and 23 and arrested in different places around France, Cazeneuve said. One was a former member of the navy.
A source close to the investigation into the thwarted attack, who asked to remain anonymous, said the four people arrested had been planning to film the decapitation of a member of the military in the south of France.
One of the four suspects, who was identified as the mastermind, had been planning to travel to jihadist-controlled areas of war-torn Syria, Cazeneuve added in his statement.
He said their leader was in contact with known French jihadists who are currently in prison.
The arrests were made at dawn on Monday, the day before Bastille Day, France’s national public holiday.
“At the [Bastille Day] ceremony, the president reminded us that every week we prevent... terrorist acts,” Cazeneuve said. “That was once again the case this week.”
Cazeneuve said no link had been established between the foiled assault and the two blasts on Tuesday at a petrochemical plant near Marseille.
The two blasts at a petrochemical plant in France appear to have been "criminal acts", the country's parliament has been told.
Cazeneuve added that security forces have now identified some 1,850 people normally resident in France who were known to be involved with jihadist networks.
Of those, about 500 were currently fighting with Islamists in Syria and Iraq, he said. France had issued 118 prevention orders stopping people from leaving the country.
The country is on high security alert after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January, in which 17 people were killed in the Paris area, and after an incident in June in which a suspected Islamist radical beheaded his boss and tried to blow up a US-owned industrial gas plant in the suburbs of Lyon.
Paris has tightened security around sensitive sites such as factories, calling for "maximum vigilance".
But experts warned it was extremely difficult to defend against attacks on such sensitive sites.
"There is no such thing as zero risk," Philippe Prudhon, a technical expert at the UIC union of chemical industries, told AFP.
"If someone really wants to cause harm, it will be difficult to stop him or her.”
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)
Date created : 2015-07-15