Arrests made after car containing gas cylinders found near Paris's Notre Dame
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A car containing several gas cylinders was discovered close to Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris over the weekend and its owner, who is now in custody, is on an intelligence services watchlist, police said Wednesday.
The Peugeot 607, which had no registration plates, contained seven gas cylinders, one of them empty on the front passenger seat.
It was found with its hazard lights flashing, as if to attract attention, two police officials said on Wednesday. “We think he may have been trying to carry out a test-run,” one of the officials said.
There was no detonating device present in the car, found on a Seine riverside stretch called the Quai de Montebello, metres from the Notre Dame Cathedral. Documents with writing in Arabic were also found in the car.
An investigation has been opened into the case, while a police source confirmed to FRANCE 24 that at least two people had been arrested – a 34-year-old man and a 29-year-old woman – and detained by anti-terror officials for the past two days.
France remains on maximum alert after calls by the Islamic State group for followers to attack the country, which is bombing the militant group’s bases in Iraq and Syria.
More than 200 people have been killed in terror attacks over the past year-and-a-half in France.
Notre Dame, renowned for its flying buttresses, stained-glass windows and gargoyles, is one of Paris's most popular landmarks, attracting 13 million visitors each year.
The head of France's DGSI domestic intelligence service, Patrick Calvar, warned in May of a "new form of attack" in which explosive devices would be left near sites that attract large crowds.
Such attacks would create large numbers of victims without sacrificing suicide bombers, he told a parliamentary committee.
French security services are particularly worried about the danger posed by extremists returning from Syria, where they have been fighting with IS group forces.
France's top prosecutor said last week that around 700 French nationals were currently in Syria.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP, REUTERS)