Arrested French jihadist ‘instructed’ to attack concert
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A French national suspected of planning a terrorist attack in France after returning from the Islamic State group’s Syrian stronghold of Raqqa was arrested last month, officials said Friday.
The man admitted to police that he had been instructed to carry out an attack on French soil – “preferably” during a concert – but has denied that he had any intention of following through with the plan, according to a judicial source.
He was not immediately identified by police, but the source told AFP that he was a 29-year-old who had spent one week in Raqqa. He was arrested on August 11 at his home and charged with “criminal association in relation with a criminal terrorist enterprise”.
“This is one of those cases in which individuals want to carry out terrorist attacks,” Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told reporters during a trip to the northern city of Roubaix on Friday.
The suspect did not have a police record and was unknown to French intelligence services before his trip to Syria, the judicial source said.
A handgun was reportedly found at his home during the arrest.
During questioning, the suspect told police he had spent one week in Raqqa – which became the Islamic State (IS) group’s de facto capital in northern Syria in mid-2013 – where he was injured during combat training.
Before returning to France, he received precise instructions about which route to take back to Paris and about carrying out an attack, the suspect allegedly told police after his arrest.
French police were tipped off to the former jihadist’s presence in France after the arrest of another suspect, on June 15 in Poland. The second man, a Moroccan national, was detained on a Spanish arrest warrant.
Suspected of spending time among IS militants in Syria, the Moroccan confessed he had not travelled to Europe alone – identifying the man now in French police custody.
French in Syria
The fear of Syrian blowback in France – namely, that French citizens who joined the ranks of the IS group could return home to stage terrorist attacks – has gripped the country since the deadly Charlie Hebdo shootings in January.
Cherif and Said Kouachi, the two men who gunned down 12 people at the satirical weekly, received combat training in Yemen under the auspices of al Qaeda.
The French government revealed this week that 1,880 French citizens or residents were directly involved in jihadist networks. It said 133 people had died while fighting, with 491 others still waging war abroad.
France started surveillance flights over IS group-held territory in Syria this month, saying reconnaissance was necessary to prevent future terrorist plans and to inform future air strikes on IS targets.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)